The Kentucky Labor Cabinet has proposed that the Pike County Fiscal Court Road Department pay $37,600 in fines and penalties due to the agency’s findings in the wake of the May 24 death of county worker Danny Taylor.
Taylor, 61, died while working at the site of a slide at Little Robinson Creek, when, officials said, a tree he was attempting to move from a creek slipped from the bucket of the excavator he was operating and entered the operator’s compartment on the vehicle, killing Taylor, who also worked as a Pike County Sheriff’s deputy.
In the wake of the incident, documents provided by the Pike County Fiscal Court show, the Kentucky Labor Cabinet, Office of Occupational Safety and Health investigated and found that the county committed several violations, including:
• Not furnishing employees a place of employment free from recognized hazards that caused or were likely to cause death or serious physical harm;
• Did not have a person at the site of the incident adequately trained to render first aid;
• Did not conduct a personal protective equipment hazard assessment for employees who operated heavy equipment and chainsaws;
• Did not provide or require employees to use personal protective equipment; as well as other violations.
Pike Judge-Executive Ray Jones said this week that while the county will contest some of the citations, that others would be difficult to contest, as at the time of the accident which killed Taylor, his administration was only a few months in to a process of attempting to correct several years of neglect of worker safety on the part of the Pike County Fiscal Court.
Jones said that, as the new administration began working earlier this year, officials found that there had been no serious work on the topic of worker safety since Nee Jackson was laid off by then-Judge-Executive Wayne T. Rutherford’s administration in 2011.
“After Mr. Jackson was laid off due to budget cuts, it looks like the safety program died,” Jones said. “We knew coming in that we had to implement a safety program.”
Jones said that, after Jackson’s tenure, it appears, safety took a backseat.
“There was no active safety program,” he said. “They had a safety policy in place which had not been updated in some time and was not in compliance with OSHA requirements.”
Jones said that as his administration took office, there was work and planning being done to correct the neglect, but that Taylor’s death accelerated that.
“After Danny’s death, it became apparent we could not wait,” he said. “It was obvious we needed somebody inside county government to oversee this.”
Steps the county has taken, he said, include:
• The institution of a hazards communication program;
• The adoption of a new safety policy;
• The adoption and implementation of a new drug-free workplace policy;
• Every employee, including inmates who work on works crews, has been put through safety orientation;
• The implementation of “tailgate talks” and worksite inspections.
The employees are also given personal safety equipment and given a voucher to purchase such items as work boots.
Jones said there is also greater emphasis on enforcement.
“If you’re caught without required personal protective equipment, you will be suspended,” Jones said. “And if a supervisor’s present and you don’t have it on, the supervisor’s suspended along with the employee.”
The citations issued by the Labor Cabinet are mostly classified as “serious” and require immediate action by the court. Jones said that the county will likely contest one of the most serious of the citations.
“We likely will contest the one where it says we didn’t provide a safe workplace because what happened with Danny, we believe, was a situation that was a freak accident and that the set of circumstances were not foreseeable,” Jones said.
Jones said that his administration intends to prevent another worker from being killed while on the job.
“Danny Taylor was a friend of mine,” Jones said. “And, to my knowledge, he was the third employee of the Pike County Fiscal Court killed on the job. It’s my goal that there never be another one.
“We owe it to our employees and their families and the general public that when an employee of the Pike County Fiscal Court goes to work, they have a safe place to work,” he continued.