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OSHA fines Minneapolis sign firm $448,000 for 'willful' safety violations in Wis.

  • Article by: Tim Harlow
  • Star Tribune
  • February 28, 2013 - 11:31 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 guardrails for the Wisconsin Department of Transportation near Menomonie contacted overhead power lines.

He was an employee of the Minneapolis branch of Houston-based Highway Technologies.

OSHA said that six of the 10 violations were “willful violations” and that the company failed to ensure that equipment being operated was not within 10 feet of a power line, and exposed workers to electrical shock and electrocution hazards. OSHA also said the company failed to ensure the equipment remained at least 6 feet from power lines 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 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 targets employers that endanger workers by committing willful, repeat or failure-to-abate violations. It requires follow-up inspections to ensure future compliance with the law.

The company, which installs guardrails, crash attenuators, barrier walls and signs, has 15 days to respond to the citations or contest the findings.

 

Tim Harlow • 612-673-7768

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