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February 03, 2023
Connecticut, Kansas employers facing 6-figure OSHA fines

A Manchester, Connecticut, construction firm and a Kansas City, Kansas, heating, ventilation, and air-conditioning (HVAC) contractor face six-figure Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) penalties following worker fatalities.

OSHA cited U.S. Engineering Services of Kansas City, Kansas, with serious and repeat serious violations, proposing penalties totaling $197,642, the agency announced January 31. On August 24, 2022, a fourth-year apprentice HVAC technician employed by U.S. Engineering Services suffered fatal electrocution after coming in contact with energized parts while repairing HVAC equipment.

OSHA investigators concluded that U.S. Engineering Services, a subsidiary of U.S. Engineering, failed to de-energize equipment and prevent equipment from unintentionally starting up during repairs or maintenance. The agency also found that the company failed to conduct hazard assessments to identify personal protective equipment (PPE) needs and other requirements for field employees at contracted sites and allowed a damaged extension cord to be used at the repair site.

OSHA’s investigation found that the worker was cleaning a chiller unit in a mechanical room at University Academy, a college prep charter school in Kansas City, Missouri, when the electrocution happened. While the chiller’s fan motor was turned off using the building’s HVAC management system, neither a lock nor a tagout was placed on the unit control switch to ensure electrical power was drained from the coils and the air handler.

Investigators also found that neither arc flash PPE nor lockout/tagout equipment was on-site at the time of the incident.

“This worker’s death was avoidable. Employers must follow well-known electrical safety procedures set forth in federal regulations and industry-recognized practices,” Karena Lorek, OSHA’s Kansas City area director, said in an agency statement.

OSHA cited the company in a July 2021 fatality when another company HVAC technician in Wichita, Kansas, was fatally electrocuted while working on a rooftop air-conditioning unit that was not drained of all its energy.

OSHA’s lockout/tagout standard (29 Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) §1910.147) is one of the agency’s most frequently cited standards, cited 1,977 times in fiscal year (FY) 2022.

$375K OSHA fines in fatal trench collapse

A Manchester, Connecticut, contractor’s failure to provide legally required safeguards and make sure they were in place to prevent trench collapses contributed to the July 22, 2022, death of an employee who was buried when an 8-foot-deep trench caved in, the agency announced January 30.

OSHA cited Botticello Inc. with four serious trenching violations, proposing penalties totaling $375,021.
OSHA investigators concluded that Botticello Inc. failed to:

  • Provide the trench with a protective system to prevent it from collapsing and caving in on workers.
  • Have a competent person conduct inspections before and during the work to identify and correct any hazardous conditions before employees entered the trench.
  • Ensure that the 135-foot-long trench contained sufficient means of egress to allow employees to exit safely.

“This deadly cave-in and the worker’s death should never have happened,” Dale Varney, OSHA’s Hartford, Connecticut, area director, said in an agency statement. “After a previous OSHA inspection, Botticello Inc. knew of the dangers of working in an unprotected trench and the need to inspect the trench and ensure required effective cave-in protection was in place before any employee entered the trench.”

OSHA has an ongoing trenching and excavation National Emphasis Program (NEP) and last year announced plans for 1,000 trenching and excavation inspections in response to an uptick in fatalities.

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