Maine, N.H. Contractors Cited in Job Site Electrocution

March 27, 2008

Contractors in Maine and New Hampshire have been cited by federal regulators for safety violations at a residential construction site in Hermon in which one employee was electrocuted and another injured.

Angel Valespi of Portland was killed and Robert McLeod of Harrington suffered serious injuries on Sept. 12, 2007, while working on a modular home that was in contact with a crane that bumped into overhead power lines. Officials said at the time that high winds were believed to have been a factor.

The U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration announced Tuesday it has cited J&S Carpentry of Columbia and Irving Equipment Inc. of Hampton, N.H., for 15 alleged violations of safety standards. The two contractors face proposed fines totaling $121,500.

OSHA found that the crane was being operated within 10 feet of the 7,200-volt power line, which had not been de-energized beforehand, as required.

“The basic safeguards designed to prevent just this sort of accident were ignored here, with fatal results,” said William Coffin, OSHA’s area director for Maine. “De-energizing the power line and maintaining a safe working distance from it would have prevented this death and injury.”

J&S Carpentry declined comment on the proposed fines. A call seeking comment from Irving Equipment was not immediately returned.

Irving Equipment, which owned and operated the crane, has been issued three repeat citations for operating the crane in high winds, inadequate support for the crane’s outriggers, and failure to inspect the job site to identify and correct these and other hazards. OSHA had cited the company in May 2005 for similar hazards at a job site in Freeport.

Irving Equipment also was issued six serious citations for operating the crane within 10 feet of the power line, not operating the crane in accordance with the manufacturer’s specifications and industry standards, and lack of fall protection, hardhats, onsite medical attention and an electrical warning sign.

The proposed fines include $89,500 for Irving Equipment and $32,000 for J&S Carpentry.

Each company has 15 business days from receipt of the citations to contest them before the independent OSHA review commission.

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