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Wind farm accident fans huge OSHA fines

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in Employment Law

After an electrical worker suffered severe burns while working on an Illinois wind turbine, OSHA cited the Minnesota company that owns the facility for six willful safety violations.

Canaby-based Outland Renewable Services owns the Iberdrola Streator Cayuga Ridge South Wind Farm near Odell, Ill., where the accident occurred.

OSHA regulations require technicians working on wind turbines to hook up devices that prevent other workers from accidentally energizing turbines, which could injure those working inside the massive generators. Somehow, the electrical worker in Odell failed to use his “lock-and-tag device”—and when another employee turned on the transformers, an electrical arc burned the man’s face, neck, arms and chest.

OSHA issued the citations under its Severe Violators Enforcement Program (SVEP), a program that focuses on employers that endanger workers by committing willful, repeat or failure-to-abate violations in cases involving:

  • A fatality or catastrophe
  • Industry operations or processes that expose workers to severe occupational hazards
  • Exposure to hazards related to the potential releases of highly hazardous chemicals
  • Incidents provoking egregious enforcement actions.

The SVEP is OSHA’s harshest citation category. Penalties in this case totaled $378,000.

Note: OSHA investigators will lower the boom on any violation that is seen as preventable or that the employer knew about or should have known about and failed to correct. Life-threatening violations like this one will definitely get OSHA’s attention.

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