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OSHA and local company reach formal settlement in fatal workplace accident

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Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — The US Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has reached a “formal settlement” with a local company, which was contracted for crane service for a project at Manu’a’s Store at the Tafuna Industrial Park, during which three men were electrocuted and died early last year.

Based on OSHA public online records, Samoa News reported early this year that Jersey Corporation — with location of the incident: Tafuna Industrial Park, Tafuna Manu’a’s Store — had three proposed violations, and two are labeled “serious” — with a proposed fine of $8,873 for each of the serious violations.

The three violations, in which one is considered “other” with no fine, were issued June 19, 2017, according to OHSA, a bureau within the US Department of Labor (USDOL).

Yesterday morning, OSHA public records showed that the case was closed on June 28, 2018 with a current total civil penalty against the company at $14,197 — for the two serious violations — a decrease from the initial proposed penalty totaling $17,746.

Additionally, each serious violations’ “formal settlement” is $7,098 while the “other” violation remains without a penalty.

Commerce Department confirmed to Samoa News early this year that based on its business database, Jersey Corporation renewed its business licenses for 2017 & 2018 and is doing business as Asia Pacific Engineering & Construction Service (APECS), whose activities are General Construction & General Engineering.

Samoa News reported on Jan. 24, 2017 that APECS had been contracted by Manu’a’s Store for crane services to build a warehouse. Unconfirmed reports at the time said the crane operator was injured during the electrocution incident.

Responding to Samoa News questions, a USDOL regional spokesperson said Jersey Corporation was hired as a subcontractor to provide the crane and the operator for the construction project.

“The employees who were killed were employees of the general contractor building the small retail store,” the spokesperson said yesterday afternoon from the US mainland. “The store owner was the general contractor and the construction workers were warehouse workers from the store.”

Asked for an explanation on the specific “serious” violations, the spokesperson said, “Jersey Corporation was cited for failing to mark the swing radius of the crane to identify potential electrical hazards and for operating the crane within 20-feet of energized power lines.”

The spokesperson also confirmed the reduction of the penalty from the one that was initially proposed, “considering that the employer provided a 30-hour Construction course for supervisors and a 10-hour Construction course for the other employees.”

The OSHA accident investigation summary report on Jersey Corporation only states that the incident occurred Jan. 14, 2017 around 11a.m when three employees were unloading and staging structural metal beams with a boom truck crane.

The truck mounted crane was unloading steel beams from an open top container when the boom truck cable touched a high power line causing electrical current to flow down the steel beam into the arms and bodies of the three employees who were electrocuted.

This is similar to the accident summary report OSHA made for Manu’a’s Store in Sept. 2017.

As of yesterday morning, OSHA records show that Manu’a’s Store case remains open with a proposed penalty totaling $35,492 for three “serious” violations. The proposed violations and penalty are being contested by Manu’a Store, according to OSHA records.

Because this case is still open, USDOL has no comments.