Last September, a neighborhood in Brooklyn, New York, was rocked by the work-related death of an employee of telecommunications and broadband giant Verizon. According to reports, field technician Douglas L. was installing steel suspension strands while suspended above ground in an aerial lift attached to a bucket truck. Sadly, he accidentally came into contact with energized power lines and was fatally electrocuted.
In the aftermath of the fatal work accident, the Manhattan office of the U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) launched a full-scale investigation to determine what exactly transpired.
On Monday, the agency announced the results of its investigation, issuing Verizon 10 safety violations and proposed fines totaling $140,700.
The reason why these fines are so high is that three of the 10 citations handed down were for repeat violations, meaning the company had previously been cited for the same violations within the last five years but failed to take the necessary steps to correct the problem.
Specifically, Verizon was cited for the same violations here as it had previously been cited for following a 2007 worker fatality at a Providence, Rhode Island work site. These two sets of violations were for the following:
- The employees were too close to power lines
- The employees were lacking the necessary training
- The employees were lacking insulated protective gloves
In addition, five of the citations handed down were for serious violations, meaning "there is a substantial probability that death or serious physical harm could result from a hazard about which the employer knew or should have known."
Some of the serious OSHA violations issued to Verizon were for the following infractions:
- Failing to ground steel suspension strands during installation
- Failing to provide employees with hard hats
- Failing to inspect personal protective equipment
- Failing to adequately train employees on safe work practices
"Every workplace death is needless. A combination of effective training and safe work practices could have prevented this incident," said Kay Gee, the OSHA area director for Brooklyn, Manhattan and Queens. "The recurring nature of some of these hazards is disturbing. Verizon must take effective action to ensure that its workers are adequately protected so that this does not happen again."
It is worth noting that Verizon was also issued two other-than-serious violations, which cover work hazards that would likely not cause serious injury or death.
Verizon has indicated that it will appeal the proposed fines and violations, and that it committed no wrongdoing in connection with the fatal electrocution.
"Verizon regrets the unfortunate incident that took the life of [Douglas L.] However, Verizon does not believe that the incident resulted from any failure of Verizon to follow any requirements of the Occupational Safety and Health Act or any other safety requirement," read a company statement. "Verizon has extensive safety practices in place that are designed to prevent incidents like this one from occurring, and which are thoroughly and continually reviewed with employees."
Stay tuned for updates from our Philadelphia personal injury/wrongful death blog ...
If a work-related death has left you and your family reeling, it's important to remember that you have rights and you have options. An attorney who can answer your questions and explain your rights can prove to be an indispensable ally.
This post was provided for informational purposes only and is not to be construed as legal advice. Names have been withheld to protect the identity of the parties.
OSHA News Release, "US Labor Department's OSHA cites Verizon NY Inc. for repeat and serious safety violations following utility worker's death in Brooklyn" March 19, 2012
The New York Times, "Verizon fined $140,000 after electrocution death" March 19, 2012