OSHA is reportedly investigating the Sawnee EMC tree trimming accident, which claimed the life of 27-year-old Brian Johnson Wednesday, January 21, 2015.
According to the AJC, Mr. Johnson was part of a Sawnee EMC power line crew clearing trees along GA 400 at Whelchel Road, around 2:30pm Wednesday. The crew was apparently clearing a right of way for power lines when one of the trees fell, fatally striking Mr. Johnson.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is now investigating, per media reports.
Our Legal Take
OSHA has released a hazard bulletin on the dangers of tree care work, specifically noting the perils of falling branches and the need for employers to provide proper site inspection, equipment and employee training prior to allowing clearing operations.
Per OSHA guidelines, did Suwanee EMC establish and mark drop zones prior to tree trimming? Were all employees trained on procedures for entering these drop zones? Were ground crews instructed to remain a distance of at least two times the height of a tree during felling operations? Was a retreat path established to escape falling trees?
Was the accident a result of a catastrophic equipment malfunction? When was the equipment last inspected?
Should an equipment malfunction have contributed to this tragedy, the family of Brian Johnson may elect to file civil claims against the manufacturer. Additionally, as Mr. Johnson was working at the time of his death, his family is almost certainly entitled to substantial workers’ compensation benefits per Georgia law. Claims of this magnitude will, most importantly, serve to highlight the perils of this industry and call on Suwanee EMC and other power companies to reevaluate employee safety standards. Perhaps, through such claims, many other lives may be spared.
As employers and insurance companies are often more concerned with limiting their financial exposure than providing for victims and their families, it is imperative the Johnson family retain an experienced workers compensation attorney without delay. Photographs and an inspection of the scene and all involved equipment will need to be performed before any evidence is repaired, damaged or destroyed.
The Murray Law Firm works tirelessly to protect victims of catastrophic workplace accidents and we offer our legal expertise, if needed. Anyone seeking further information or legal representation is encouraged to contact us at 404.842.1600. Consultations are free and confidential.