The Kentucky Injury Prevention and Research Center recently issued a report containing several jobsite recommendations for all roofers following investigation of a 2018 incident in which a 16-year-old was killed.

This awful story — this is why I care about changing the workforce development paradigm in this country. If this kid had been brought up through a secondary school program geared toward construction work, he would not have died. Plain and simple; an OSHA 10-hour card would have saved his life.

The new report was issued through the center’s Kentucky State Fatality Assessment & Control Evaluation (FACE) Program and in conjunction with the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health.

According to the report, the 16-year-old male roofer was electrocuted on Sept. 10, 2018, when he attempted to maneuver a fully extended 25-foot ladder when he struggled with the ladder, lost control, and it fell backwards and made contact with a 7,200-volt electric power line. Because the roofer was still in contact with the aluminum ladder, “electricity was able to travel through the metal and into the young worker.” He was pronounced dead on scene.

The report indicates the 16-year-old Hispanic male was working for a subcontractor and had been on the job for about two months. He was not enrolled in school at the time of the incident.

Subsequent investigation found that the victim was not wearing any personal protective equipment nor was there any on site.

There’s more:

“The subcontractor had no written safety programs nor verbal safety training provided to the employees,” the FACE report states. “The employees learned on the job how to perform their duties.”

The primary contractor did not have any employees on site.

FACE found several factors contributed to the worker’s death. They were:

  • Work performed outside youth employment regulations;
  • Lack of hazard recognition and safety training;
  • Use of conductive ladder around high voltage lines;
  • Transporting an extension ladder in the vertical position

In its report, FACE also made several recommendations that really should be applicable to all roofers. They were:

  • Employers should perform a job hazard analysis prior to performing a new task.
  • Employers should become familiar with and comply with all federal, state, and local regulations associated with youth employment, including safety training and hazard recognition.
  • Employers should consider using non-conductive ladders when working near electrical lines.
  • Employees should always lower the extended section and transport ladders horizontally.

I realize there are a lot of things that went wrong leading to the disastrous outcome of the incident in Kentucky — and the FACE recommendations are good rules of thumb — but properly training and honoring our craft workers before putting them into harm’s way stands alone (to me) as the one thing that we all missed. So sad.