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OSHA fines tree trimming company $146,000 for failing to protect workers near energized transmission lines

November 4, 2010
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OSHA has cited ABC Professional Tree Services Inc., a Houston, Texas-based company specializing in tree trimming for public utility lines clearance, with $146,000 in proposed penalties for allegedly failing to ensure employees were trained to work near energized transmission and distribution lines, an agency press release says. The fines are the result of a May jobsite inspection in Morris, Ill.

"The electrical transmission and distribution regulations are quite clear when it comes to workers' exposure to energized power lines,” said Kathy Webb, OSHA's area director in North Aurora. "The training and qualification of the workers must meet certain criteria to enable them to safely work around energized lines. Requiring employees to work around these lines, which may expose them to electrocution hazards, without proper training demonstrates a willful disregard for the workers' safety.”

OSHA issued one willful citation with a proposed penalty of $70,000 for failing to ensure employees were trained and qualified to work near energized transmission and distribution lines. A willful violation is one committed with intentional knowing or voluntary disregard for the law's requirements, or with plain indifference to worker safety and health.

ABC Professional Tree Services also received one repeat violation with a penalty of $70,000 for allowing workers to operate a bucket truck within the minimum approach distance to energized transmission lines. A repeat violation is issued when an employer previously has been cited for the same or a similar violation of a standard, regulation, rule or order at any other facility in federal enforcement states within the last five years.

In addition, the company was issued one serious violation with a proposed penalty of $5,000 for failing to conduct a job briefing prior to the start of the workday and one other-than-serious violation with a proposed penalty of $1,000 for failing to certify the OSHA 300 logs that record employee injuries and illnesses for the years 2007, 2008 and 2009. A serious citation is issued 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. An other-than-serious violation is one that has a direct relationship to job safety and health, but probably would not cause death or serious physical harm.

Since 2004, ABC Professional Tree Services has been inspected 11 times nationwide and issued 15 citations for violating OSHA standards. These inspections include three that resulted from workplace fatalities in 2006 and 2007.

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