Electrician’s apprentice and lifelong Oxford, FL, resident Christopher Lee Dasher was testing and repairing electrical transformers at a substation in Reddick when he ended up electrocuted by more than 10,000 volts.
On Oct. 15, Dasher, 36, used a circuit testing technique that bypassed safety protocols designed to protect workers from electrical currents. He contacted an energized circuit and later died from injuries he sustained.
Duke Energy Florida Inc. knew workers bypassed safety protocols to conduct testing, but it did not enforce safety standards, said officials at the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). Due to this practice, the company has a history of nonfatal shock injuries.
OSHA inspected the utility company after learning of Dasher’s fatal injury. OSHA found Duke Energy responsible for one willful and five serious safety violations. Proposed penalties total $90,000.
“Duke Energy is aware of the fatal hazards that Dasher and other workers are exposed to, but failed to implement control measures its safety team developed to protect employees,” said Brian Sturtecky, director of OSHA’s Jacksonville Area Office. “This tragedy could have been prevented had management not delayed in making the workplace safe.”
Duke Energy received a willful violation for failure to have a qualified observer present during testing that could immediately de-energize circuits. A willful violation is one committed with intentional, knowing or voluntary disregard for the law’s requirement, or with plain indifference to worker safety and health.
OSHA issued serious citations for failure to ensure transformers ended up grounded and safety checked between each test and to provide training to workers who assisted with transformer testing. Another citation included failure to ensure controlled access to the test area to protect workers from electrical shock hazards. A serious violation occurs when there is substantial probability that death or serious physical harm could result from a hazard about which the employer knew or should have known.
OSHA has resources to protect workers from electrical hazards and proposed Duke Energy enter the agency’s Severe Violator Enforcement Program for demonstrating indifference to its OSH Act obligations to provide a safe and healthful workplace for employees.