Harrison County, WV Power Plant Accident Results in Death

An employee of a contractor performing work for FirstEnergy, died following a workplace accident at the Harrison Power Station in Harrison County on March 20, 2013.  The accident occurred around 8:45 a.m., according to OSHA area director Prentice Cline.

The employee, age 57, was an employee of Burnham Industrial Contractors Inc., an insulating company based in Pittsburgh, according to FirstEnergy spokeswoman Jennifer Young.

According to the State Journal, the contracting company, Burnham Industrial, was removing insulation from ductwork in preparation for an upcoming planned maintenance outage when their employee fell through and into the ductwork, according to a March 20 letter from the power station’s director to employees.

“Scaffold planks on the duct structure beams were being used throughout the job to prevent any direct contact with the duct plating,” the letter reads. “At this time, it is not clear how the employee was positioned to have any contact with the duct plating.”

As a personal injury attorney who has had the privilege of helping the families of employees killed or injured while working at power plants, I am always saddened to hear that there is another family whose life has now been forever changed by a tragic death associated with working conditions at a local power plant.

Utility Workers Union of American attorney Mark Brooks shared a little more information.

“We were told that the company (Burnham) had worked on that particularly ductwork and moved on to another part of the plant,” Brooks said. “And this worker went back to retrieve some tools and he was later found having fallen through a weak spot in the ductwork.”

He said it’s his understanding that the temperature inside the ductwork, when operating, approaches 300 degrees, and that Bergman was found by another Burnham employee.

He was unable to say whether it is standard practice to perform work on ductwork while the system is in operation.

FirstEnergy owns the coal-fired power plant.  FirstEnergy, Burnham Industrial, and OSHA are all investigating the cause of the fatality to determine who was at fault for this tragic and untimely death.  Officials will continue to investigate the accident to determine how and why safety measures failed and whether there were any violations of federal safety regulations.

 Although employers are immune from common-law negligence claims through Worker’s Compensation laws, families of fatally injured employees have a cause of action against employers who deliberately expose their employees to known unsafe conditions in the workplace.

The insurance companies will be doing everything within their legal power to minimize this claim and avoid paying full compensation. They will hire or use company lawyers to aggressively fight your claim. These types of claims are complicated and can be lost on technical or procedural violations. It is essential for this family to hire an attorney who has a reputation of experience and success in handling wrongful death claims.

What is a Wrongful Death?  Allow us to answer some of your questions:  http://www.robinettelaw.com/Articles/Wrongful-Death-Claims-in-West-Virginia.shtml.

This is the second death at Harrison in less than two years. Employee Ned Johnson of Rivesville died at the facility in September 2011 when he was pinned between a machine and a guardrail.  FirstEnergy was found by OSHA to be at fault for Mr. Johnson’s death.  

Update:  Harrison County Power plant found to be at fault for death of Ned Johnson:

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration issued a ruling on an accident that killed a man at its Harrison Power Station in Sept. 2011.  OSHA ruled the plant’s owner, FirstEnergy, is at fault in the death of Ned Johnson of Rivesville.

It ruled he died by getting crushed between a moving platform of a Rotary Plow Feeder and a standing guardrail. According to OSHA’s report, FirstEnergy allowed employees to work in an environment where the equipment could cause several fatal injuries.

Original article — Ned Johnson:

Fire officials say a 63-year-old Rivesville man was killed in an accident at the FirstEnergy Harrison Power Station near Lumberport in September of 2011.  Ned Johnson, a bulk handling operations technician, was trapped between a piece of machinery and a guardrail in the coal handling area near 12:30 p.m.  Ned Johnson had worked for FirstEnergy for twenty-five years and for the Harrison Power Station for two years.  This area was closed by the company after the accident.

Although at least three other FirstEnergy employees in Ohio and Pennsylvania have been killed on the job in the last six months, FirstEnergy’s Harrison Power Station is part of a labor department program meant to allow work sites with good safety records to avoid routine Occupational Safety and Health Administration inspections.  This program has been criticized by workplace safety advocates and congressional auditors.  The Harrison Power Station has not been inspected for more than a decade according to the U.S. Department of Labor.  The Harrison Power Plant was last inspected in July of 2000 and cited with two minor violations.

Operators of heavy construction and industrial equipment face some of the most dangerous work conditions in America. When a piece of equipment fails, bringing a machine that can weigh multiple tons or more to an emergency stop is often impossible. Operators behind the wheel or working near the equipment are at the mercy of unstoppable mass and energy.

Submitted by the Robinette Legal Group, PLLC, West Virginia Injury Lawyers. Free books and downloads for WV accident victims — Call us today:  304-594-1800 for your free copy of Righting the Wrong: WV Serious Injury Guide; Collision Care: WV Auto Injury Guide; or Beside Still Waters: WV Fatal Injury Guide for Families. We are glad to answer your questions.

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