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A second construction tragedy averted

If you follow the Allegheny River for about a half-hour northeast of Pittsburgh, you will come to the borough of Tarentum. It's there that a construction worker on a roofing job was electrocuted last fall. His aluminum ladder came in contact with a 7,200-volt power line over the home.

Just three days later, the tragedy was nearly repeated when the employer sent up another worker to finish the job. The worker was, of course, exposed to the very same electrical hazards that had killed the first man. Fortunately, the second employee emerged unscathed.

The employer was not quite as fortunate. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) cited him for willfully exposing the second employee "to preventable electrical hazards," the federal agency said in a statement. It also noted that a willful violation involves intentionally or knowingly ignoring safety laws, or doing so with disregard for the law or indifference to the worker's health.

"The blatant disregard for worker safety demonstrated is horrifying and completely despicable," said the head of OSHA's Pittsburgh office. The employer was fined $67,900.

Let's face it: construction is more than dangerous enough without companies showing disregard for safety regulations. Far too often, competent, skilled workers can be injured through no fault of their own by falls, lack of proper protective gear, unskilled or reckless co-workers, accidents caused by weather, and so on.

When a worker is injured and then denied workers' compensation for which they are eligible, insult is added to their injury. Most won't give up easily, however. Determined to fight for the benefits they have earned and that they need, they take on the insurer and employer with the assistance of an experienced workers' comp attorney.

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