Federal safety officials have tagged Mount Airy, N.C.-based Pike Electric Corp. as a repeat violator of safety regulations, proposing fines of $127,000 against the contractor. The proposed fines came after the Occupational Safety and Health Administration recently cited the company for using defective equipment and failing to use safe practices at four of Pike’s jobsites in Florida and Georgia.

The alleged violations involved four jobsites, three of which saw workers sustain serious injuries, says Benjamin Ross, OSHA’s assistant regional administrator for enforcement programs.

OSHA officials say they are trying to get their point across that safety procedures must be followed. "Whenever OSHA fines in excess of $100,000, we consider that a significant enforcement action. These cases are an indication that we are very serious about getting Pike’s attention," says Cindy Laseter, regional administrator of OSHA’s Atlanta office. 

The company may contest the proposed fines. "It’s too early for us to have much of a comment and we’re working on our response [to OSHA] right now," says Barney Ratliff, vice-president for Pike Electric. 

The alleged violations occurred during a three-month period from March to June, and OSHA issued the citations last month.

In a March 24 accident at a Sunrise, Fla., a journeyman lineman sustained serious electrical burns that required the amputation of both his feet and one arm. The lineman was in an aerial basket, drilling holes in a concrete pole, when an exposed screw head on the boom came in contact with energized lines, causing an electrical current to flow through him, claims OSHA.

 OSHA’s Ft. Lauderdale-area office cited Pike, and proposed a $35,000 penalty, for allowing employees to work too close to power lines. Pike had been cited previously for a similar violation. Two citations also were issued for allegedly using inappropriate equipment to move energized distribution lines and for failing to provide and assure that workers used proper tools and protective equipment. Those citations include proposed penalties totaling $12,000. 

OSHA claims that a similarly dangerous situation occurred with Pike workers on March 30, along U.S. Highway 80, near Tybee Island, Ga. At that time an OSHA inspector from the Savannah office saw workers in two aerial baskets that OSHA claims were too near to power lines. OSHA issued a repeat citation to Pike for allowing equipment and personnel to come within the minimum approach distance of energized lines and for failing to provide workers with adequate protective equipment. The citation carries with it a proposed penalty of $35,000. A second citation with a $5,000 proposed penalty was issued for using defective personal protective equipment while working on energized power lines. 

On May 13, another serious accident, this time at a Melbourne, Fla., residential project, resulted in a Pike employee’s hands being severely burned. The accident occurred when the worker, allegedly working in an aerial basket without proper protective equipment, came in contact with an energized overhead distribution line. The Tampa OSHA office issued a repeat citation with a proposed penalty of $35,000. 

On June 28, the Ft. Lauderdale area office initiated an inspection at a Hobe Sound, Fla., job site, after an employee sustained second and third degree burns in an accident there. OSHA cited the company for permitting an employee to work without flame retardant clothing in an area where flash fires or electrical arcing were known to occur. The agency proposed a $5,000 penalty. 

Pike Electric has 15 days to contest the OSHA citations and proposed penalties before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.