guilty of willfully breaking OccupationalSafety and Health Administration regulations in the death of Blake Lane, 20, who was killed on his second day working for the company.The Rolling Meadows-based company was acquitted of a second charge inthe 2000 death of Wade Cumpston, 43.I've written a couple of times before about L.E. Meyers, a company that has an unfortunate habit of killing its employees.
Prosecutors say L.E. Myers willfully ignored workplace regulations that would have kept both men alive.
L.E. Myers faces a maximum sentence of 5 years' probation and a $500,000 fine for the misdemeanor charge, prosecutors said.
OSHA had originally gone after the parent company, MYR Group, but a court ruled that MYR was not liable because the parent company didn't actually control the workplace, although it determined the health and safety programs of its subsidiaries.
Lane, of Sullivan, Ill., was a rookie in the power-line construction industry when he was jolted by 2,400 volts of electricity atop a 120-foot steel tower in Mt. Prospect on Dec. 28, 1999.L.E. Myers still can't figure out what they did wrong:
Prosecutors said Lane, who was inexperienced, was not warned by his foreman that the line was live.
Cumpston, of Ashland, Ky., was an experienced lineman who was electrocuted while working in a bucket at a Plainfield ComEd tower. He tried to remove one end of a ground wire while the wire's other end was still attached to a live power line. Prosecutors alleged that the line had not been properly grounded.
The deaths of Lane and Cumpston were the latest in a long history of workplace fatalities for L.E. Myers, a company that builds and repairs high-voltage power lines.
A Tribune investigation in 2003 showed the company had had 35 work-related deaths and 200 violations of federal and state safety rules since 1972.
"We deeply regret that two of our employees lost their lives in these tragic accidents," L.E. Myers President William Koertner said in a statement. "We do not believe that the company did anything intentionally or willfully that caused either of these accidents and are, therefore, disappointed in the outcome today."An earlier statement by the company blamed human error:
“Neither L.E. Myers nor MYR Group believe there is any criminal wrongdoing with these unfortunate accidents caused by human errors” by the workers who died, says Corey Rubenstein, an attorney for the contractor. Myers carries out extensive safety training, he says. “Obviously, it’s a very dangerous industry and all participants have accidents from time to time,” he says.Yeah, just one of those things. Dangerous industry. Accidents happen. Workers screw up. Unfortunate. Damn.
L.E. Myers and MYR Group: Losing Lives 'While Winning With Safety', February 24, 2004
Electrocutions at L.E. Myers: Safety Last?, November 25, 2003