Verizon worker’s electrocution, death sparks federal fines

The telecommunications giant, Verizon, was recently sanctioned by the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration. OSHA imposed fines of more than $140,000 for safety violations on the company following the death by electrocution of one of the company’s technicians last year. The fines were the highest OSHA had in its power to impose.

Though the employee’s family may feel some justice has been won against a company that has a long history of providing unsafe working conditions, it is not until it applies for death benefits that it will truly be able to support itself after the tragic loss of the worker. With the amount of phone lines and telecommunications business in Denver, this scenario could easily happen in Denver if a Colorado failed to provide the necessary training and safety equipment.

According to OSHA, the employer’s disregard of basic workplace safety rules has been repeated over the years, causing the organization to issue 10 citations against the willfully negligent employer. The employee had been working on overhead cables in a bucket truck when the electrical current from the cables set him on fire.

No lifesaving equipment was provided to the technician or to other employees performing similar tasks. The company also failed to follow up to ensure that gloves and protective helmets were worn and in place while performing hazardous tasks around electrical wiring.

Other safety violations by the telecommunications giant included inadequate training on how to safely work with high voltage electrical lines. To add insult to injury, the employer even failed to acknowledge the technician’s death by recording it in its required safety records.

If this kind of accident happened in Colorado, it would be expected that the surviving family members contact a workers’ compensation and death benefits attorney in an effort to try and provide for the family. An employer has a duty to its workers to provide a safe workplace, failing to do so can provide disastrous and sometimes fatal consequences.

Source: The New York Times, “Verizon Fined $140,000 After Electrocution Death,” Hannah Miet, March 19, 2012

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