Saturday, September 6, 2008

Fines For Pike Electric

OSHA Wants $63K Fine For Pike Electric

This article appeared in the Mobile Press Register on Saturday, September 6, 2008 and was written by Jeff Amy, Business Reporter.

Also, this ties to a post I made on May 6, 2008 on this incident.

It amuses me that with repeated trench colapses maiming and killing workers in Mississippi and Alabama, as well as all over the country a little crying to OSHA and they will reduce fines for deaths or injuries from up in the hundreds of thousands down to $12,000. Not really a slap on the wrist! These kind of fines WILL NOT deter these companies from taking the same short cuts again and possibly killing more workers.

Worker near USA was badly injured in May when trench collapsed onto him.

Federal workplace safety officials have proposed a $63,000 fine against Pike Electric, Inc. after a trench collapsed and severely injured a worker earlier this year.

The company, which builds and maintains power lines, was doing work near the corner of Old Shell and Hillcrest roads, near the University of South Alabama, when the cave-in happened May 6, according to federal records

A statement from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration said that the walls of the trench were "near vertical." Spokesman Michael Wald said the worker was hospitalized after the collapse, although he was unable to say whether the worker was permanently impaired.

Pike's Michael Heath declined to comment Friday.

Federal safety rules call for trenches to be sloped or held up by supporting structure, such as a metal frame, to keep workers from being crushed by collapsing dirt.

"Pike Electric has lots of experience in trenching, but the company's managent still failed to take basic preventative measures that could have saved this employee from harm." Clyde Payne, interim director of OSHA's Mobile office, said in a statement.

The company was fined over two separate infractions -- $56,000 for a willful rule violation for failing to protect workers in the trench, and $7,000 for piling excavated dirt too close to the side of the trench.

Based in Mount Airy, N.C., Pike Electric (NYSE:PEC) commonly does work for Alabama Power Co. and other electric utilities throughout the South and Midwest. In its most recent budget year, it reported profits of $20.2 million on revenues of $552 million.

The company has 15 days to appeal the violations and fine to the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission, or it can request for an informal settlement with the head of the Mobile OSHA office.

Fines are commonly reduced through such appeals and settlements. For Example, in the past five years, OSHA has proposed $246,680 in fines against Pike throughout the nation, according to the agency's online record of completed cases, but after appeals and settlements, the company has paid only $70, 430.50.

For example, the Mobile office initially proposed a $77,000 fine for failing to cut off power to a line safely after lineman Ronnie Adams died by electrocution while working in Flomaton on July 12, 2005, after Hurricane Dennis. A resident's generator was backfeeding power into a line believed to be dead, a possibility that Alabama Power had warned Pike about, according to documents. Pike contested the fine, saying in part that Adams' death was his own fault because he was wearing leather and not rubber gloves. The latter would have insulated him from electrocution.

An administrative law judge reduced the amount to $12,000 in 2007, saying the company's conduct was not a willful violation, which carries a higher fine.

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