Contractor Pleads To Violating Regulation After Worker Death

JOHNSTOWN, Pa. (AP) — Authorities say a western Pennsylvania contractor has acknowledged violating a federal regulation following the electrocution death of a worker at the site of a sewer line installation in Johnstown more than three years ago.

The U.S. attorney's office said Insight Pipe Contracting pleaded guilty Friday to one count of violation of an Occupational Safety and Health Administration regulation requiring equipment to have 10 feet (3 meters) of clearance near energized power lines.

Authorities said a telehandler — which has the features of a forklift and a crane — was being used to remove pipe-liner from a box truck in the Moxham neighborhood in April 2018. The telehandler was trying to place a large roll of liner into an open manhole, but it got stuck. The operator tried to reposition the machine's forks but they made contact with overhead power lines, authorities said.

At that moment, a worker had his hand on the telehandler's door while apparently trying to tell the operator something and was electrocuted, authorities said. Christopher Diaz, 30, of Butler was pronounced dead at the scene. Officials told The (Johnstown) Tribune-Democrat at the time that two other workers who tried to pull him away from the machine were injured.

Prosecutors said the company has agreed to pay a fine of $20,000 and spend three years on probation. Earlier this year, Insight Pipe Contracting paid a fine of $180,000 in civil penalties in an OSHA administrative case stemming from the death, authorities said. Sentencing is scheduled Oct. 28.

Insight Pipe Contracting administrative manager Diane Reiber said Monday that the company has taken steps to improve safety following the death.

“This was a tragic accident, and we are all deeply saddened by the loss of a valued employee," Reiber said in a statement. “We have fully cooperated with the government and updated our safety standards and guidance to be in full compliance with all rules, regulations, and safety standards."