Cal/OSHA has cited an Anaheim solar panel installation company $193,905 for multiple serious workplace safety hazards including one willful serious accident-related violation, following an investigation of a worker who was seriously injured after they fell from the roof of an Oakland home. Cal/OSHA determined that Nexus Energy Systems did not provide required fall protection for its workers.
On December 6, three installers were working to install solar panels at the Oakland residence when one of the workers lost his footing and fell 15 feet onto the concrete driveway, suffering a broken wrist and jaw. None of the workers were wearing fall protection.
“Falls from roofs are often deadly, and that is why employers must protect their employees from fall hazards and provide effective training,” said Cal/OSHA deputy chief of enforcement Debra Lee. “This employer was aware of these dangers and ignored its responsibility to address them.”
Cal/OSHA cited Nexus Energy Systems for five violations, three of which were related to the December accident. The violations include:
- A willful serious accident-related violation as the employer failed to provide fall protection.
- Two serious violations for the employer’s failure to provide training and ensure compliance with fall protection measures.
- Two general violations for the employer’s failure to implement an effective heat illness protection plan and an injury and illness prevention program that identifies and corrects hazards specific to the worksite.
Cal/OSHA also cited the employer for two additional violations stemming from an incident that investigators learned had taken place the previous September, when a worker suffered electrical burns while connecting solar panels to an energized breaker box. Cal/OSHA noted one serious continuing violation for failing to provide insulated gloves or tools while working on energized equipment, and a general violation for the employer’s failure to investigate the industrial accident and take measures to correct safety hazards.
A violation is classified as serious when there is a realistic possibility that death or serious harm could result from the actual hazard created by the violation, and violations are classified as accident-related when the injury, illness or fatality is caused by the violation. A willful violation is cited when the employer is aware of the law and violates it nevertheless, or when the employer is aware of the hazardous condition and takes no reasonable steps to address it.
All employers in California are required to have an effective written injury and illness prevention program, a safety program to identify, assess and control hazards in the workplace. Cal/OSHA has online tools and publications to guide employers on how to establish an effective safety program. Cal/OSHA’s resources on fall protection include a safety and health factsheet, residential fall protection training and a construction safety pocket guide.
Nexus Energy Systems issued the following statement in response to OSHA’s press release:
“Our company has had all legal safety prevention measures in place and have always put the safety of our work force as our primary concern throughout our history. The allegations made are concerning an isolated incident that is not representative of our policy, procedures or company culture. We have been serving many thousands of Californians for many decades, and look forward to showing that the allegations are not accurate as the process unfolds.
“We have had an immaculate safety record at all points prior and are actively working with OSHA to enhance employee safety measures company wide. We are currently undergoing the fact finding process and once that is complete, will stand by the final decision. However, that process has not taken place and feel that is far too early to be conclusory. Our employee and customer experiences have been and will continue to be our top priority today and at every point in our future.”
News item from the California Department of Industrial Relations; Cal/OSHA. Updated with Nexus’s statement on June 18.