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OSHA fines Minneapolis sign firm $448K for 'wilfull' safety violations

Posted by: Tim Harlow Updated: February 28, 2013 - 1:06 PM
The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration has fined Highway Technologies, Inc. more than $448,000 and cited the firm with 10 safety violations that led to the death of a Wisconsin highway worker on Interstate 94.
Joseph Janisch, of Ellsworth, Wis., was electrocuted on Sept. 17, 2012 when equipment he was using while installing signs and guardrail for the Wisconsin Department of Transportation near Menomonie contacted overhead power lines.
He was an employee of the Minneapolis branch of Highway Technologies, which is based in Houston and has offices in 12 states, including three in Minnesota.
OSHA said the six of the 10 violations were “willful violations” and that the company failed to ensure that equipment being operated was not with 10 feet of a power line, exposed workers to electrical shock and electrocution hazards. OSHA also said the company failed to ensure the equipment remained at least six feet from a power line when it traveled underneath them.
“Highway Technologies failed to protect its workers from serious electrocution hazards,” said David Michaels, OSHA’s assistant Secretary of Labor.
OSHA defines a willful violation as one committed with intentional, knowing or voluntary disregard for the law’s requirement, or plain indifference to employee safety and health.
Since 2007, Highway Technologies has been inspected 10 times by OSHA and cited for nine violations. As a result of the latest findings, OSHA has placed Highway Technologies in its Severe Violator Enforcement Program. The program targeting employers that endanger workers by committing willful, repeat or failure-to-abate violations requires follow-up inspections to ensure future compliance with the law.
The company has 15 days to respond to the citations or contest the findings.  
 
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