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Fire officials say a 63-year-old Rivesville man was killed in an accident at the FirstEnergy Harrison Power Station near Lumberport Sunday. 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. 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.
As a personal injury attorney who has represented the families of employees killed or injured while working at coal mines and power plants, I am saddened to hear on the news today that there has been yet one more death associated with working conditions at a local power plant.
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.