OSHA Issues 10 Citations Following Death of Highway Construction Worker

February 28, 2013

OSHA has issued 10 safety violations to Highway Technologies Inc. after a worker died from injuries sustained while working with equipment that came into contact with power lines on a Wisconsin highway construction site. The proposed penalties following the investigation total $448,000,

The incident occurred on Sept. 17, 2012 when the company was performing guardrail and sign installation on a 13-mile stretch of I-94 in western Wisconsin.

Citations have been issued for six instance-by-instance willful violations of failing to ensure that parts of the equipment being operated were not within 10 feet of a power line, exposing workers to electrical shock and electrocution hazards. These citations also include instances of failing to ensure that any part of the machinery was not within 6 feet of an overhead power line while the machinery was traveling beneath the power lines.

The four serious violations also cited include failing to identify electrical work zones, determine if any part of the equipment being operated would be closer than 20 feet of a power line, train each worker on safe clearance distances from power lines, and evaluate that each employee understood the training and risks of working near overhead power lines.

Due to the nature of the hazards and the violations cited, Highway Technologies Inc. has been placed in OSHA's Severe Violator Enforcement Program, which mandates targeted follow-up inspections to ensure future compliance with the law. OSHA's program focuses on recalcitrant employers that endanger workers by committing willful, repeat or failure-to-abate violations. Under the program, OSHA may inspect any of the employer's facilities if it has reasonable grounds to believe there are similar violations.

Highway Technologies Inc., headquartered in Houston, employs about 1,500 workers in 13 states installing highway guardrails, crash attenuators, barrier walls and signage. Prior to this investigation, the company had been inspected by OSHA 10 times since 2007, resulting in citations for nine serious violations. One of these inspections was initiated based on employee injuries sustained from contacting an overhead power line while installing a highway sign.