CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Harrison County power plant where a worker died on Sunday had not been inspected by federal workplace safety officials for more than a decade, U.S. Department of Labor officials confirmed Monday.
FirstEnergy's Harrison Power Station is part of a labor department program meant to allow work sites with good safety records to avoid routine Occupational Safety and Health Administration inspections. The program has been criticized by congressional auditors and by workplace safety advocates.
Ned Johnson, 63, of Rivesville, was killed shortly before noon at the plant near Haywood, north of Clarksburg. Johnson, an operations technician, was a 25-year-veteran of Allegheny Power. He is survived by his wife, three children and six grandchildren.
Johnson was working in a plant tunnel where coal is transported by conveyor belt, when he somehow became pinned between a piece of machinery and a guardrail, said Leni Uddyback-Fortson, labor department spokeswoman.
Inspectors from the department's Occupational Safety and Health Administration launched an investigation of the incident after being notified of it Sunday, Uddyback-Fortson said.
Todd Meyers, a spokesman for FirstEnergy subsidiary Allegheny Power, refused to answer questions or provide details beyond the company's brief statement about the death.
"Safety is the top priority at our plants," the prepared statement said. "Our thoughts and prayers are with the employee's family, friends and co-workers."
At least three other FirstEnergy employees -- line repair workers in Ohio and Pennsylvania -- have been killed on the job in the last six months, according to press accounts.
OSHA, though, last inspected Allegheny Energy's workplaces at the Harrison Power Station in July 2000. Inspectors cited two minor violations, and issued no fines.