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Electric shock costs contractors $190k in fines

15 Sep 11 Three contractors working at a US Marine Corps base face fines totalling nearly US$190,000 (£120,000) after a worker received an electric shock when a crane boom came into contact with a 12,000V power line.

The US Department of Labor's Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) has cited Piedmont Mechanical Inc., Jim Boyd Construction Inc. and Chevron Energy Solutions Inc. for safety hazards after a worker received burns from an electrical shock during the installation of a new landfill gas processing and compression facility at the base in Albany.

OSHA cited a total of three willful and eight serious safety violations with proposed penalties of US$189,700 following an inspection begun in March after the incident. The boom tip of a crane had come into contact with an overhead power line with a carrying capacity of more than 12,000V. Electricity travelled down the crane through a line that was connected to the load being moved by the crane and shocked the employee on the ground, who was holding the line.

Piedmont Mechanical was cited for one willful violation with a US$56,000 penalty for failing to determine whether any part of the crane could get closer than 20 feet (6.1m) to the overhead energised power line, exposing workers to an electrical shock hazard. The company also was cited for two serious crane-related violations, one with a US$3,500 penalty for positioning the crane on soil that was not sufficiently secure to support its weight and another with a US$2,800 penalty for failing to inspect the crane before beginning the day's operations.

OSHA cited all three companies for safety violations involving trenching and excavation at the site. Piedmont Mechanical was cited for one willful violation with a US$56,000 penalty, Jim Boyd Construction was cited for one willful violation with a US$49,000 penalty and Chevron Energy Solutions was cited for one serious violation with a US$6,300 penalty for exposing employees to a cave-in hazard by allowing them to work in a deep trench where the top of the trench shields were 2–4 feet (0.6m to 1.2m) below the top of the trench. Chevron and Jim Boyd did not have any employees exposed to the hazardous conditions; however, Chevron, which was serving as the manager of the project, was cited as the controlling employer, and Jim Boyd, which excavated the trench and supplied and installed the protective trench shields, was cited as the creating and correcting employer.

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Additionally, Jim Boyd and Piedmont were cited for one serious violation each with a US$3,500 proposed penalty for allowing workers inside a trench where several sections of the trench shields were not connected with spreader bars. Each also was cited for one serious violation carrying another US$3,500 proposed penalty for allowing workers in a trench where several sections of the trench shields were not flush against the walls of the trench, exposing workers to "crushed-by" and "struck-by" hazards. Finally, Jim Boyd was cited for a serious violation with a US$2,100 penalty for allowing workers in a trench where one section of the trench shield system was damaged.

"When there are multiple companies operating together at the same site, which is often the case in construction projects, it is important that all the employers take a serious interest in the safety and health of the workers, and actively seek to prevent hazards like the ones we found here," said Robert Vazzi, director of OSHA's Savannah area office.

Proposed penalties total $125,300 for Piedmont Mechanical, $58,100 for Jim Boyd Construction and $6,300 for Chevron Energy Solutions. 

The companies have 15 business days from receipt of the citations and proposed penalties to comply, request a conference with OSHA's area director or contest the findings before the independent Occupational Safety & Health Review Commission. 

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