Mass. Electrical Contractor Faces $52,000 in OSHA Fines Following Accident

August 18, 2004

A Pembroke, Massachusetts, electrical contractor faces $52,000 in fines from the U.S. Labor Department’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) following an April 28 accident in which a worker lost parts of both arms.

Employees of Amber Electrical Company Inc. were installing electric cables at the Hingham Mall when one worker became caught in a motorized cable-pulling machine. OSHA’s inspection found that the cable puller’s on/off switch was broken and inoperable.

“The broken on/off switch prevented a swift shutdown of the machine at a time when every second counted,” Brenda Gordon, OSHA’s area director for Boston and southeastern Massachusetts, said. “Had the switch been in working order, this accident could have been prevented or, at the very least, its severity lessened.”

As a result, OSHA has issued a willful citation to Amber Electric for the broken and inoperable on/off switch and proposed a $28,000 fine. OSHA defines a willful violation as one committed with an intentional disregard of, or plain indifference to, the requirements of the Occupational Safety and Health Act and regulations.

The inspection also reportedly found that the workers had not been adequately trained to recognize, avoid and prevent hazardous conditions, the work area lacked adequate lighting and there was no competent person to regularly inspect the jobsite to ensure that tools and equipment were in proper working order. A competent person is one with both the knowledge to identify hazards and the authority to correct them.

For these conditions, Amber Electric was issued three serious citations with $21,000 in fines. A serious violation is defined as a condition that exists where there is a substantial possibility that death or serious physical harm can result to an employee.

For failing to maintain a workplace illness and injury log for the past three years, the company was fined an additional $3,000 and issued an other than serious citation. An other-than-serious violation is a condition that would probably not cause death or serious physical harm but would have a direct and immediate relationship to the safety and health of employees.

Amber Electric has 15 business days from receipt of its citations and proposed penalties 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.

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