Safety Firm Fined $448K in Fatal Shock
One of the nation's largest highway marking and safety contractors is facing $448,000 in fines and a list of egregious federal safety citations after an employee was electrocuted on an interstate project.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration has issued six willful citations—the agency's highest level of infraction—and four serious citations against Houston-based Highway Technologies Inc. in the death of Joseph C. Janisch, 34, in September.
The company, which had been inspected by OSHA 10 times since 2007, including once for a similar incident, was placed in OSHA's Severe Violator Enforcement Program.
The company did not respond Friday (March 1) to requests for comment.
Power Line Contact
Authorities said a Highway Technologies crew was installing guard rails and signs along a 13-mile stretch of Interstate 94 in western Wisconsin under a contract with the Wisconsin Department of Transportation when the accident occurred about 7:20 a.m. Sept. 17.
Authorities said Janisch, a married father of four children, of Ellsworth, WI, was working with equipment that came in contact with overhead power lines near Menomonie, WI. Janisch had worked for Highway Technologies for about a year and a half after spending most of his life on a dairy farm, the Pierce County Herald reported in his obituary.
The OSHA citations include six instance-by-instance willful violations of:
A willful violation is one committed with intentional, knowing or voluntary disregard for the law's requirement, or plain indifference to employee safety and health.
|Highway Technologies Inc.|
Highway Technologies faces six willful violations, OSHA's highest level of infraction.
OSHA also issued four serious violations, alleging failure to:
Serious violations reflect "substantial probability" of death or serious injury from a hazard about which the employer knew or should have known.
'Willful Failure to Comply'
"Highway Technologies failed to protect its workers from serious electrocution hazards," Dr. David Michaels, OSHA Administrator, said in a statement.
"Multiple instances of the same violation over a period of time clearly demonstrate a willful failure to comply with basic safety and health standards. Employers must take steps to eliminate hazards and provide a safe working environment."
The Severe Violator Enforcement Program focuses on what OSHA calls "recalcitrant employers that endanger workers by committing willful, repeat or failure-to-abate violations." The program mandates targeted follow-up inspections and allows OSHA to inspect any of the employer's facilities if it has reasonable grounds to believe there are similar violations.
About the Company
Highway Technologies Inc. employs about 1,500 workers in 13 states installing pavement markings, highway guardrails, crash attenuators, barrier walls and signage. Before Janisch's death, OSHA reported, the agency had inspected the company 10 times since 2007, resulting in citations for nine serious violations.
|Highway Technologies Inc.|
The Houston-based company provides pavement marking, guardrail installation, signs and other safety services and products across 13 states.
One of those inspections was triggered by the injury of an employee who accidentally came in contact with an overhead power line while installing a highway sign.
The company has 15 business days from receipt of its citations and penalties to comply, request an informal conference with OSHA's area director, or contest the findings.