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NYS DoL find multiple safety violations related to Berne highway worker’s death

Feb 15, 2021 5:30 am

Noah Zweifel is reporting for The Altamont Enterprise the New York State Department of Labor’s Public Employee Safety and Health Bureau has found the Berne highway department to be in violation of seven serious safety violations. The determination was reached following an investigation into the October 21 death of Berne highway worker and former fire chief Peter Becker. Becker, 52, was killed when a dump truck propped up on jack stands fell on him at the town transfer station. The publicly posted PESH Notice of Violation and Order to Comply states that lockout-tagout procedures were not used on the truck as specified under the town's lockout-tagout policies for large trucks, "prior to the servicing and maintenance of wheels and rear brake components by Berne Town Highway employees as the keys to the truck were in the ignition.” On those same days, according to the notice, “wheel chocks were not placed in front of and behind the wheels” of the dump truck, and more. The violations, according to the report, may be related to a variety of factors including a lack of training, the department's failure to conduct periodic inspections on the energy control procedures and the failures to develop, document or utilize procedures for the control of potentially hazardous energy. Each of the seven violations must be remedied by a specific date, the latest being May 4 of this year. The notice says that if serious violations are not set right by the dates provided, the Department of Labor will impose a penalty of up to $200 per day the violation continues. Highway Superintendent Randy Bashwinger, who is also chairman of the town and county Republican committees, did not return reporter's emails and calls seeking comment. Berne Supervisor Sean Lyons also did not respond to questions. Bashwinger was elected highway superintendent in 2014 and will be up for re-election in November. He has been criticized for neglecting safety procedures in work areas before, primarily by town board member Joel Willsey, a Democrat and a retired Department of Transportation employee. Read the full story in The Altamont Enterprise.

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