All electrical work at the Santa Fe Community Convention Center must be handled by a certified electrician or a licensed third-party contractor as part of a settlement agreement between the city and the state stemming from the accidental death of a 27-year-old apprentice last year.

The city also will pay $60,000 in civil penalties and spend an additional $60,000 in safety improvements under the agreement, which allows an apprentice to do electrical work at the downtown convention center on West Marcy Street but only under the direct supervision of a licensed journeyman.

Tobin “Toby” Williams, a mechanical structural apprentice who had been on the job less than seven months, was working alone on a scissor lift in April when he was fatally injured replacing interior lighting fixtures in one of the convention center’s three kitchens.

State investigators said Williams appeared to have been shocked by a live circuit that feeds the emergency lighting system at the sprawling facility but concluded that a combination of factors, including inadequate planning by the city and a lack of written procedures, contributed to his death.

The fatal accident shook city officials, who have since emphasized the importance of safety in the workplace, and led Williams’ family to file a tort claim, which is a precursor to a lawsuit, against the city. The family’s attorney, Lee Hunt, did not return messages seeking comment Tuesday.

The city declined to comment on its settlement with the New Mexico Environment Department, saying it would be premature to comment on what is not yet a final agreement.

“The agreement is not final yet due to the required posting period” of at least 20 days, City Attorney Erin McSherry wrote in an email.

In addition to the $60,000 penalty, the city agreed to correct hazards and implement significant safety improvements and training, said Maddy Hayden, a spokeswoman for the state Environment Department.

“Under the terms of the settlement, the city will implement enhanced policies, safety procedures and training beyond those required by law to prevent employee exposure to electrical hazards at the convention center, and will provide the department with annual certification of its policy for three years,” Hayden wrote in an email. “The department will review corrective actions taken by the city and determine if the policies and procedures are effective in protecting employees.”

According to the settlement, the convention center’s operations manager, Melanie Moore, notified the state’s Occupational Health and Safety Bureau of the accident April 2, a day after the electrical mishap. Three days later, the bureau received notification that Williams had died, and an investigation was initiated.

In September, the bureau cited the city for seven safety violations of the Occupational Health and Safety Act, including two that were classified as repeat violations, and proposed civil penalties totaling $183,375.

The city contested the violations and the proposed civil penalties, leading to settlement discussions with the state. After reevaluating evidence and reconsidering “the statutory factors on which the violation was determined,” the state revoked one of the citations and its related proposed civil penalty.

As part of the agreement, the remaining $50,700 in proposed civil penalties “will be deemed paid with no further action by the bureau” if the city implements a number of corrective actions, including the adoption of a written policy that prohibits convention center employees from performing “any work on energized or exposed de-energized parts.”

“The parties acknowledge that the agreements, statements, stipulations, and actions herein are made solely for the purpose of settling this matter fairly, economically, and without litigation or further expense,” the settlement states.

Follow Daniel J. Chacón on Twitter @danieljchacon.

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(3) comments

Stefanie Beninato

I bet the city never properly grounded its system.

And the 120K being paid out is for state violations. It is NOT what the city will owe the family for the tragically unnecessary death of this young man. How much is the city paying the family?

Khal Spencer

The city should be tarred and feathered for this. Letting an untrained worker do energized work on a lethal circuit? If a certain Federal laboratory not too far from here had done that, it would be shut down.

The city needs to copy that certain Federal lab's extensive energized electrical safety program. If it had, there would have been a pre-job, all workers handling circuits would have been trained in the kind of electrical work they were doing and the hazards involved, and the circuit would likely have been locked out and tested to make sure it was off or other compensatory actions taken. Also, I suspect a two person rule with both persons trained in emergency CPR would have been working closely togeather.

Sigh.

Peter Romero

My father always told me that skilled labor was not cheap and cheap labor is not skilled.

I feel for the family and friends.

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