OSHA News Release - (Archived) Table of Contents|
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) of the U.S. Labor Department has completed its investigation of a March 8, 1999, electrocution at a Falmouth, Massachusetts, worksite which killed one worker and seriously injured another. As a result of that inspection, OSHA has cited Universal Roofing and Sheet Metal Company, Inc., the New Bedford, Massachusetts, roofing contractor which employed the workers, for nine alleged Serious violations of the Occupational Safety and Health Act and proposed $25,000 in fines against the company.
According to Brenda Gordon, OSHA area director for Boston and Southeastern Massachusetts, the accident occurred as Universal Roofing employees were dismantling aluminum pump jack scaffolding they had used while installing new gutters on a dormitory at the Marine Biological Laboratory in the Woods Hole section of Falmouth. Workers were lowering a 36-foot long aluminum support pole to the ground when conduction occurred between the pole and a 14,400 volt overhead power line located about six feet from the scaffolding. This resulted in the electrical current shooting through the pole and the workers who were holding it.
"The workers and the scaffolding were simply too close to the power line," said Gordon. "In order to prevent accidents such as this one, OSHA's scaffolding safety standard requires that scaffolding work be performed no less than ten feet from energized overhead power lines. If that minimum distance is not feasible, then the employer must notify the appropriate utility or electrical system operator and arrange to have the power lines de-energized, relocated or covered with protective insulating material before work commences. These are basic safety precautions which were, sadly, not followed in this case."
OSHA's inspection also identified several other alleged violations involving the erection, use and dismantling of the scaffolding which posed significant safety hazards to the workers on this job. These included fall hazards stemming from inadequate guardrails, an absent fall protection system and inadequately secured support poles for the scaffolding.
The company was also cited for not training workers to recognize and avoid hazards associated with scaffold work and the use of portable ladders, and for failing to have a competent person onsite to both supervise the erection and dismantling of the scaffolding and to conduct safety inspections to identify and correct hazards such as those cited in this inspection.
Gordon emphasized that effective training and supervision are key to preventing accidents such as occurred at this jobsite:
"Worker safety can never be based on chance or 'good luck'", she said. "Proper pre-job planning, backed up by on-the-job safety inspections and employee training, can identify and eliminate hazards such as these before workers are hurt or killed."
Noting that, in 1997, 138 American workers died when they came in contact with overhead power lines, Gordon also urged Southeastern Massachusetts employers or workers with questions regarding scaffold work, work near power lines, or other OSHA safety and health standards, to contact the OSHA area office in Braintree at 617-565-6924. She added that OSHA's toll-free, nationwide hotline --1-800-321-OSHA (1-800-321-6742)-- may be used to report workplace accidents or fatalities or situations posing imminent danger to workers, especially if they occur outside of normal business hours.
Specifically, $25,000 in penalties are proposed against Universal Roofing and Sheet Metal, Co., Inc. for nine alleged Serious violations for:
employees exposed to serious electric shock hazards while working on, and dismantling, aluminum pump jack scaffolding located within ten feet of a 14,400 volt energized, uninsulated overhead power line;
employees exposed to serious electrical hazard while using a forty foot portable aluminum extension ladder in close proximity to the power line;
employees exposed to serious fall hazards while working without a fall protection system at the edge of a roof more than 31 feet above the ground;
employees exposed to serious fall hazards while working on a scaffold located 26 feet above the ground that lacked adequate guard rails or other fall protection;
employees exposed to falls of up to 26 feet while working on scaffolding with inadequately secured support poles;
employees not wearing head protection;
employees not instructed in the recognition and avoidance of unsafe conditions associated with work on scaffolds, fall hazards and the use of portable ladders;
failure to have a competent person supervise the erection, moving, dismantling and alteration of the scaffolding;
failure to have a competent person conduct frequent and regular safety inspections of the jobsite, materials and equipment.
A serious violation is defined by OSHA as one in which there is a substantial probability that death or serious physical harm could result, and the employer knew, or should have known, of the hazard.
OSHA is empowered by the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970 to issue standards and rules requiring employers to provide their employees with safe and healthful workplaces and jobsites, and to assure through workplace inspections that those standards are followed.
The company has 15 working days from receipt of the citations and proposed penalties to either elect to comply with them, to request and participate in an informal conference with the OSHA area director, or to contest them before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.
The information in this release will be made available to sensory impaired individuals upon request. Voice phone: (617) 565-2072. TDD (Telecommunications Device for the Deaf) Message Referral Phone: 800-347-8029
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