A 44-year-old electrical technician in Orlando, Florida, climbed down into a trench to splice streetlight wiring in the early afternoon of 2nd March 2021. He was electrocuted when he made contact with ‘live’ wires. He was working for United Signs & Signals Inc (US&S), a contractor who specialises in lighting and the design, construction and installation of roadway and highway signs.
The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) investigators deemed the incident avoidable if the employer had the taken necessary safety measures. They cited US&S for two wilful violations and two serious violations.
The two wilful violations were for failing to de-energize and lockout the circuit which exposed workers to electrical-shock hazards and also for exposing workers to cave-in hazards in the trench without adequate controls being applied. The two serious violations were for not ensuring workers had safe means to exit excavations and for allowing work in a trench with accumulated water.
OSHA Area Office Director Michelle Gonzalez in Jacksonville, Florida said “A man is dead because of US&S’s wilful indifference toward protecting its workers and this terrible loss should remind employers that safety measures are never optional, and the consequences for ignoring them can be fatal.”
US&S has 15 business days from receipt of its citations and penalties to comply, request an informal conference with OSHA’s area director, or contest the findings before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission. OSHA has proposed $237,566 in penalties, which is not a lot for a death.
Employers in the US are responsible for providing a safe and healthful workplace for their employees as provided by US OHS law, just the same as in Australia.