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Cal/OSHA Cites Solar Panel Installers for Willful Failure to Protect Employee from Fall

Riverside, California-based installation company Elite Electric did not provide employees with required fall protection.

Cal/OSHA has issued $130,125 in proposed fines against Elite Electric, Inc. for serious and willful safety violations after a worker installing solar panels fell 29 ft through a skylight.

Riverside, California-based installation company Elite Electric did not provide employees with required fall protection, even though the company charged the building owner for it, according to a Cal/OSHA press release. 

The 29-year-old employee suffered severe head trauma, cognitive impairment, multiple pelvis fractures, fractured ribs and a collapsed lung in the June accident. 

Cal/OSHA issued one general, three serious and one willful-serious workplace safety citations to Elite Electric this week. The willful-serious violation is for Elite’s failure to protect employees approaching within 6 feet of any skylight during the installation of solar panels from falling through them, according to the statement. 

“Falling is the leading cause of death in the construction industry,” said Cal/OSHA Chief Juliann Sum. “It is critical for employers to prevent workers — especially those working from great heights — from being injured or killed from falls. This employer was aware of their responsibility and completely failed to fulfill it.”

Elite Electric’s safety manager, management team and a third-party compliance company will review the citation and work with Cal/OSHA to resolve the issue, Steven deWalden, safety manager at Elite Electric, said in a statement. 

“As a company, we have been extremely concerned over the team member’s injury,” he said. “As a company, it’s been a shockwave to us which allowed us to heighten our safety awareness and our safety culture in the company. This incident pointed us to holes that we needed to fix. Since the incident we have heightened the supervision on job sites, expectations, the training all to eliminate a future incident. At this point, our priority remains in hoping that the employee makes a full recovery. We hope that after his recovery, as soon as he is able and capable, we would love to have him back in the company working to some capacity.”

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