OSHA Fines City of Modesto after Death of City Worker

MODESTO -- A Modesto family is still grieving after the death of a loved one. They say it was a preventable tragedy and are now demanding answers from the city.

As FOX40 reported last April, Tyrone Darnell "Nique" Hairston was killed when he and two other men were attempting to replace a light pole on Floyd and Roselle Avenues.

Nique Hairston’s name is now forever etched in a makeshift memorial.

His family says their lives stopped the day he died. All they want now are answers about what went wrong.

Hairston was by many accounts, dependable, loving and honest, his family says.

“The kid was my ace. He came through for everybody,” said Hairston’s father, Tyrone Alfonso Hairston.

“I never would have thought when he left to work that morning that was the last time I would see him,” said Nique’s wife, Tiffany Hairston.

According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) documents, the tragedy happened on April 9, 2018, when 30-year-old “Nique” was electrocuted.

"And every one of those electricians, his boss, they know they were wrong," Nique’s father said.

At the same time, Nique’s father was nearby at work; it wasn’t until he heard from relatives that he learned of what happened.

“I said, ‘no, mom, tell me now, is my son dead,” Nique’s father said.

FOX40 has since learned that OSHA has cited the city for what they call serious offenses.

These offenses include: equipment being too close to the power lines and proper guards not being in place.

Investigators also claim the city did not tell Modesto Irrigation District (MID), the electrical company, crews would be working on the light pole.

And there were no proper warning signs.

Mr. Hairston says his son had shared his own concerns months before.

“They take shortcuts and he told me the older guys had gotten comfortable,” he said.

OSHA slapped the city with a $39,000 penalty.

The city filed an appeal and told FOX40 in a statement:

“We extend our deepest sympathy and support to the Hairston family and Tyrone's friends and coworkers here at the Department of Public Works and throughout the city.  The city’s highest priority has and continues to be the safety and well-being of all our employees and the public, so that this type of tragedy will not happen again.

Immediately after this accident the city convened a SART - Serious Accident Review Team - made up of representatives (with expertise in electrical) from neighboring public agencies, a retired electrician, and electricians from the city’s Public Works and Utilities Departments to independently find out what happened, why it happened and how to prevent it in the future. This team reviewed all the city's policies, procedures, and training as it related to electrical functions.

In the wake of this tragic accident, we immediately installed additional safety protocols.  For example, prior to starting complex projects, our teams now must perform tailgate safety meetings where they go over the safety procedures for the job.  Also at these tailgates, our teams ensure that everyone is wearing the proper personal protective equipment.  Finally, the City hired a safety officer to ensure that the policies, procedures, and training related to the city's safety practices are implemented correctly, and revised as needed.”

For the Hairstons this wasn’t just an accident. It was a preventable tragedy.

“There’s things they could have done to prevent this situation from happening,” Tiffany said.

Nique’s father added it’s “not about money, it’s about what’s right. We want to know what happened to my son and why it happened and for these people to tell the truth.”

OSHA says that a conference between the city of Modesto and OSHA still needs to take place.

An attorney also told FOX40 that an appeal is typically what is done in these kinds of cases.

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