OSHA Opens Investigation Into Fayetteville Construction Incident

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Federal safety inspectors have opened up an an active investigation into a construction-site incident in Fayetteville that left a worker hospitalized earlier this month.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration began this month investigating the case of a worker who was shocked by an electrical line at The Cardinal At West Center apartment complex. He was airlifted to Mercy Hospital in Springfield, Mo., in serious condition.

Rafael Medina has since been released, but must make regular medical trips to Little Rock to undergo treatment for his burned fingers and toes, said Jerry Ennis, vice president and director of construction services for Thompson Thrift Construction in Indiana.

"He is doing well and is expected to fully recover and eventually return to his job," Ennis said.

The active investigation remains an open case, an OSHA official told 5NEWS.

OSHA investigators are looking into safety measures at the site. Any sanctions or fines will be decided following the investigation, which will last an undetermined amount of time, according to OSHA.

Federal inspectors with OSHA were at the site of the incident last week to conduct the investigation. Ennis said Thompson Thrift's employees are fully cooperating with investigators.

Employers are required by federal laws to report to OSHA any construction deaths at a site, as well as any incidents in which three or more workers are hospitalized. The employer at the Fayetteville apartment complex was not legally obligated to contact OSHA following the worker’s hospitalization, an OSHA official said. It is unknown who referred the case to federal investigators, and such information is not open to the public during an open investigation, according to OSHA.

Medina was hospitalized after being shocked by an electric power line Jan. 3 at the apartment construction site, according to the Fayetteville Fire Department.

The construction worker suffered cardiac arrest at the site, but medical crews used a defibrillator to restart his heart. He was then transported to Washington Regional Medical Center in Fayetteville, said Mauro Campos, fire department battalion chief.

Medina came into contact with a live power line at the construction site., Campos said. The man was working with a long metal handle trowl on the top of a concrete building, when his pole touched a power line, the battalion chief said.

Campos said the victim had a burn exit wound from the electricity that shocked his body.

Southwestern Electric Power Company also responded and turned off electricity at the location, Campos said.

The Cardinal apartment complex’s website encourages University of Arkansas students to live at the site, selling their location as close to the UA campus. Construction updates by the complex show dirt work began last summer, and framing for the walls started in October 2013.

The complex is scheduled to open in time for the UA’s fall 2014 semester, and has begun accepting applications for leases, according to the website.

Ownership of the land listed as the address for the complex transferred in 2008 to a Nathan Woodruff, according to a deed of the property. There is no activity on the deed since Woodruff took over ownership in March 2008, property records show.

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