OSHA investigating after Dept. of Mental Health fatal electrocution

Published: Jul. 17, 2015 at 7:49 PM EDT|Updated: Jul. 27, 2015 at 7:49 PM EDT
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COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - The S.C. Department of Mental Health Physical Plant Service is under investigation after an employee was electrocuted on the job.

Joseph Allan Martin, 29, of Elgin, died June 22 while performing HVAC maintenance at the Department's Morris Village Alcohol and Drug Addiction Treatment Center located at 610 Faison Drive in Columbia, according to a statement released by the Department of Mental Health.

A DMH physician and EMS personnel tried to resuscitate Martin, but he did not survive the accident, the statement said.

The accident was reported to the S.C. Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation and is being investigated by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration.

The modular building where the accident happened is closed. The building was used for staff offices and is not accessible to patients. The Department is not sure at this time if the building will reopen for future use.

"This tragedy has been extremely upsetting to Mr. Martin's co-workers and management in the Department's Physical Plant Service Department, as well as to the Agency's Senior Management," DMH spokeswoman Tracy LaPointe said. "No one currently in management can recall another line-of-duty death of a Department employee."

Martin held the position of trades specialist IV and worked out of the Physical Plant Service building at 7901 Farrow Road in Columbia. An online job description says duties for this position included operating and maintaining the Central Energy Plant, and operating high pressure boilers, chillers, pumps, motors and other associated equipment.

"Mr. Martin was an excellent employee, who was respected and well-liked by his co-workers and supervisors, many of whom attended the funeral service," LaPointe said.

Since the accident, LaPointe said the Physical Plant Service management conducted a review of maintenance work practices. The Department is in the process of reinforcing and retraining employees in maintenance work practices and will have general safety training session and external training for key supervisors and managers to emphasize requirements for hazard identification, avoidance and control procedures.

The Department also says it is in the process of contracting with independent electricians to check all DMH facilities to identify and remove any potential hazards.

Martin's funeral service was held last month at Highway Pentecostal Holiness Church, and he is buried in the church cemetery. His obituary with Powers Funeral Home stated he enjoyed playing baseball, fishing, golfing, drag racing and grilling with family and friends. He leaves behind his significant other, Kacy Ely; a daughter, Sophia Rose Martin; parents, Joey and Charlene Martin; and a sister, Megan Martin, all of Lugoff, as well as several other family members.

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