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3 Firms Fined $465K for Shock Hazards

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

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Three New York State contractors are facing major federal citations and six-figure fines for allegedly ignoring warnings from the local power company and allowing employees to work construction within inches of 13,200-volt power lines.

Electrocution hazards account for most of the $465,410 in fines levied against Vordonia Contracting and Supplies Corp./Alma Realty Corp. of Long Island City; Masonry Services Inc. (MSI), of Brooklyn; and North Eastern Precast LLC, of Fultonville, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration announced Monday (June 10).

The contractors allowed employees to work and operate cranes near the live lines "despite repeated cease-and-desist notices from the Long Island Power Authority," said Anthony Ciuffo, OSHA's Long Island area director.

In some cases, employees were working within four inches of live lines, without having been warned of—or equipped for—the danger by their employers. Other employees were working within 12 to 36 inches of the lines.

Power line worker
Photos: OSHA/eLCOSH

Some employees were working within four inches of live power lines without protection, OSHA said.

No workers were injured, but Ciuffo said they were clearly in danger and were "fortunate not to be electrocuted."

Willful, Serious and Repeat Violations

The problems were observed Dec. 21, during construction of a five-story conrete commercial and residential building in Valley Stream, OSHA said. Vordonia was the general contractor; MSI and North Eastern Precast were the masonry and concrete subcontractors.

All three employers were issued willful citations—OSHA's highest level of infraction—for allowing employees and crane operations in close proximity to the power lines. They were issued serious citations for not marking the power lines with warning signs.

Vordonia was issued one serious and two willful citations, with $145,530 in fines. This was the company's fourth OSHA inspection in 10 years and the third time it was issued citations. The company did not respond Tuesday (June 11) to a request for comment.

MSI was issued two willful, one repeat and 10 serious citations, with $181,280 in fines. OSHA has inspected MSI worksites 19 times in the last 10 years and has issued citations on 15 occasions.The company did not respond Tuesday (June 11) to a request for comment.

North Eastern Precast was issued two willful and 10 serious citations, with $138,600 in fines. OSHA records show no prior inspections of the company. Calls to North Eastern Precast could not be completed Tuesday.

Training, Cranes Cited

MSI and North Eastern Precast were issued serious citations for not:

  • Assuming that the power lines were energized;
  • Checking with the utility operator whether lines had been de-energized;
  • Training workers on electrocution hazards;
  • Having cranes inspected by a qualified person after assembly;
  • Marking the crane's swing radius; or
  • Having protective helmets or labeled and protected rigging.
Electrocution Electrocution Electrocution

Electrocutions are the No. 2 cause of death (after falls) in construction and can occur in ways that employers may not realize.

All three employers were issued serious citations for not marking overhead power lines with warning signs.

In addition, MSI was issued a repeat citation for unguarded rebar. OSHA cited that company in March 2010 for the same hazard at a Brooklyn work site.

"These hazards should not have existed in the first place," said Robert Kulick, OSHA's regional administrator in New York.

Electrocution Dangers

Electrocution is the No. 2 cause of death in construction, killing hundreds of workers each year, according to OSHA. Yet, employers may not be fully aware of the dangers and/or may not adequately train and protect their workers, authorities say.

A willful violation reflects "intentional, knowing, or voluntary disregard for the law's requirements, or with plain indifference to worker safety and health." A serious violation occurs when there is substantial probability of death or serious injury from a hazard about which the employer knew or should have known. A repeat citation is issued when an employer has been cited for the same or a similar violation within five years.

Each employer has 15 business days from receipt of its citations and proposed penalties to comply or contest the case.

   

Tagged categories: Accidents; Commercial contractors; Concrete; Construction; General contractors; Health and safety; Masonry; OSHA; Residential contractors

Comment from M. Halliwell, (6/12/2013, 10:32 AM)

Hmmm...working near 13.2 kV lines "despite repeated cease-and-desist notices from the Long Island Power Authority." I think these guys are extremely fortunate they didn't kill anyone. Hopefully whomever hears the appeals to the citations will take that into account and not let these guys off at 10% of the original fines.


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