Verizon fined in connection with lineworker death in Plymouth

Tamara Race

Federal safety officials have fined Verizon in connection with the death of a line worker on South Meadow Road in October.

On April 9, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration fined Verizon $13,500 for three “serious” violations after a five-month investigation into the death of line worker Gary Gibbons.

Gibbons, 52, was electrocuted when his bucket touched a power line.

The accident rocked the neighborhood with several explosions and set a few nearby trees on fire.

OSHA fined Verizon $7,000 for operating a bucket truck too close to overhead power lines, $5,000 for failing to put out warning signs or flags in the work area, and $1,500 for failure to properly inspect equipment and tools prior to use.

Union officials say the fines were not enough.

“It’s not commensurate with what happened,” said Rand Wilson, communications coordinator for the AFL-CIO. “These were called ‘serious’ violations, but $13,500? Give us a break. That’s no incentive for Verizon to change its ways.”

Gibbons was the fifth Verizon worker to die on the job in two years, Wilson said.

Two of the fatalities were in Massachusetts and one was in Rhode Island.

Gene McLaughlin of International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 2322 in Middleboro had known Gibbons for more than 20 years and blames the company for the accident.

“It’s no surprise there have been so many serious accidents and fatalities,” McLaughlin said. “Management has begun stressing productivity over safety by pushing unreasonable increases in productivity on their employees. This is just the tip of the iceberg. Safety used to be the company’s number one priority, but not anymore.”

Verizon spokesman Phil Santoro says that’s not the case.

“The safety of our employees is of the utmost importance,” Santoro said. “These citations are without merit, and we will contest them. Mr. Gibbons’ accident was an unfortunate tragedy, to be sure, but our work practices and safety training are in keeping with, and in many cases exceed, industry and government safety standards.

“At Verizon, safety is paramount,” he said.

McLaughlin blamed Verizon for not providing insulated bucket trucks and for sending new hires into the field without proper training.

Gibbons, who grew up in South Weymouth, had worked for Verizon for 34 years.

Leaders of IBEW Local 2322 will participate in a Workers Memorial Day observance at noon Tuesday, April 29, on the steps of the State House in Boston to honor Massachusetts workers who lost their lives in 2007.

The event is sponsored by the Massachusetts Coalition for Occupational Safety and Health.

Tamara Race may be reached at