Recently, several construction companies in Washington State were fined by the state’s Department of Labor & Industries for safety violations after a crane made contact with high-voltage power lines. An estimated 14 kilovolts traveled down the crane’s hoist line to the men working below the power lines, seriously injuring two of them. For reference, 14 kilovolts is equal to 14,000 volts. A standard electrical socket in the United States uses 120 volts. Thus, the men who were injured in this case suffered an electrical shock that was roughly 116 times as strong as one would receive from inserting one’s finger in an electrical socket. How did this happen, though? Aren’t there safety precautions in place to protect construction workers from dangerous electrical shocks when working near power lines? The answer is yes, but the sad truth is that many construction companies do not follow these standards.
Safety Code Violations Lead to Injuries
The state of Washington requires that power lines near construction sites using cranes be moved underground for the duration of the construction. The Department of Labor & Industries investigators found that the power lines in this case had been scheduled to be moved underground, but, instead of waiting for that work to be done, the construction companies continued to work under them. Further investigation revealed that the companies’ employees were not trained or aware of the dangers of working under power lines. As a result, the companies were cited for several workplace safety violations, including both “serious” and “willful” violations. A serious violation is one in which there is a substantial probability that worker death or serious physical harm could result from a hazardous condition. A willful violation is one in which the state investigators find evidence of plain indifference or an intentional disregard for a hazard or rule. As a result of the severity of the injuries the workers suffered, as well as the egregiousness of the companies’ safety violations, they have been identified as “severe violators” and will be subject to follow-up inspections to ensure that safety regulations are being enforced.