OSHA fines utility contractors after fatal explosion at Wisconsin project

ConDig (23-Jan-19).  The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has fined two utility contractors $12,934 each following a fatal explosion and fire at a Wisconsin construction project last summer.

Bear Communications LLC of Lawrence, Kansas, and subcontractor V C Tech Inc. of Ypsilanti, Michigan, were cited for failing to establish the location of underground utilities prior to beginning excavation work.

OSHA reported that an explosion and fire occurred in July last year when an underground gas line was struck by excavating equipment, which resulted in a volunteer firefighter responding to the incident being fatally injured. 

OSHA inspectors determined that neither contractor contacted the underground utility owners or the local one-call system.

“Excavators are required to train their employees on procedures for determining the location of underground utilities, and contact the utility company before opening an excavation,” said Madison office area director Chad Greenwood.

The companies have 15 business days to comply, request an informal conference with OSHA’s area director, or contest the findings before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.

Earlier this month, OSHA fined a Missouri-based roofing contractor $56,910 after an employee suffered a fatal fall when a roof truss collapsed. The agency said that it had cited Franklin County Construction LLC for one repeat violation for failing to ensure anchorage points and five serious safety violations for failing to protect workers from structural collapse and fall hazards.

In November, OSHA fined two Florida-based roofing contractors for exposing employees to fall hazards on a project in St. Augustine. Derek Williams (operating as Elo Restoration Inc) and Travis Slaughter (operating as Florida Roofing Experts Inc) faced the maximum allowable penalty of $129,336 each.

It followed an announcement that it had fined two Florida contractors after a worker suffered crushing injuries at a construction project in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

A 2016 Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) released in December showed that the rate of fatal injuries in the construction industry increased 6% in 2016 to 991 worker deaths compared with 937 in 2015.

BLS figures showed that falls, struck by objects, electrocutions and caught-in/between accounted for 63.7% of all construction worker deaths in last year. There was a rise in total construction worker deaths for each of the “Fatal Four” in 2016.

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