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Federal investigation into 2022 Kansas City fatal electrocution finds Midwestern engineering services firm once again failed to protect workers

US Engineering Services employees electrocuted while servicing HVAC systems in 2021, 2022

KANSAS CITY, MO ‒ A fourth-year HVAC technician apprentice employed by the United States Engineering Services suffered a fatal electrocution after touching live parts while repairing HVAC equipment on August 24, 2022, at the University Academy, a college-preparatory charter school in Kansas City, Missouri.

A federal investigation found the company failed to follow required procedures that would have prevented the crash, a violation cited by federal investigators in July 2021 when another company’s HVAC technician was fatally electrocuted while working on a rooftop air conditioning unit not drained of all its energy in Wichita, Kansas.

Specifically, the US Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration found that US Engineering Services, a subsidiary of Midwestern firm US Engineering, failed to de-energize equipment and prevent equipment from start up unintentionally during repairs or maintenance. OSHA also found that the Kansas City-based company failed to conduct risk assessments to identify personal protective equipment needs and other requirements for field employees at contracted sites and allowed the use of a damaged extension cord at the repair site.

“The death of this worker was avoidable. Employers must follow well-known electrical safety procedures set forth in federal regulations and recognized industry practices,” said Karena Lorek, OSHA Area Director in Kansas City, Missouri. “Companies whose employees work with electricity must take all necessary measures to ensure that they are protected from dangerous electrical hazards so that they can return home safely.”

The OSHA investigation found that the worker was cleaning a refrigeration unit in the academy’s machine room when the electrocution occurred. While the chiller fan motor was shut down using the building’s HVAC management system, no lockouts and/or marks were placed on the unit control switch to ensure that electrical power was discharged from the coils and from the air handling unit.

Investigators also determined that neither arc flash personal protective equipment nor lockout/tagging equipment was in place at the time of the incident.

OSHA sued the US Engineering Services for three serious and two repeat violations and proposed fines of $197,642. The agency identified similar violations after the July 2021 fatality. The company settled the case and paid the fines set by OSHA.

US Engineering Services is one of five US Engineering-owned companies in Kansas City. Its holdings include US Engineering Construction, US Engineering Metalworks, US Engineering Innovations and USE Real Estate Holdings.

The company has 15 business days from receipt of subpoenas and penalties to comply, request an informal conference with the OSHA Area Director, or challenge the findings before the Independent Commission on Occupational Safety and Health Review.

Learn more about OSHA.

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