No punitive action planned in worker's death

October 01, 1997


Staff Writer

No disciplinary action will be taken in connection with a March 6 accident that resulted in the death of a Hagerstown City Light worker, City Administrator Bruce Zimmerman said Tuesday.

"I didn't feel discipline was warranted in this situation," said Zimmerman, who has the power to discipline general staff.

Ronald L. "Beaner" Jones Jr., 34, died after he was thrown from a cherry picker as he and four other City Light crew members were removing the last of five transformers from utility poles at the Hagerstown Fairgrounds.

The winch being used snapped, causing the cherry picker's bucket to bounce. Jones, who was not wearing a safety belt, was thrown from the bucket and fell about 30 feet, striking his head on the back of the city's bucket truck.


A Maryland Occupational Safety and Health investigator, in a written report, said the project was "ill-conceived" with "management and supervisory failures" cited as major factors in the accident.

Making sure employees wear the safety belt is a shared responsibility of employees and supervisors, Zimmerman said. Jones had been trained to wear the belt two weeks before the accident and it was available to him, he said.

Jones' mother, Ruth Jones, had no comment.

City officials want to ensure that supervisors understand the importance of reviewing safety operations and of making sure safety equipment is in place, Zimmerman said.

Since the accident, unscheduled safety checks have been conducted for City Light, the Water Department, Water Pollution Control and the Department of Public Works by department managers, supervisors and the city's safety coordinator, Zimmerman said.

Council members were split as to whether disciplinary action should be taken.

"I think the crew that was involved in that has suffered enough. There is no disciplinary action the city can inflict that is worse than what those men have been putting themselves through," said Councilwoman Susan Saum-Wicklein.

Jones' supervisor and crew picked Jones up after the accident and drove him to Washington County Hospital in a city truck.

They watched their friend die, said Councilman Lewis C. Metzner.

"If that didn't get the story across, what are you going to do?" Metzner asked.

Councilman William M. Breichner said he doesn't share Zimmerman's views on the matter, but that he would withhold further comment until he sees an internal report.

The accident was reviewed internally but a formal report hasn't been written, Zimmerman said.

Councilman J. Wallace McClure said he couldn't say whether disciplinary action was needed because the incident occurred before he joined the council.

If a similar accident occurred now, disciplinary action would be needed, he said.

Councilman Alfred W. Boyer said he did not know the details of the accident, which occurred before he joined the council.

Mayor Robert E. Bruchey II said he would not comment until he talked to Zimmerman about the matter.

City officials are waiting for a formal hearing to be scheduled on its appeal to MOSH, which cited the city with four state citations encompassing 10 violations following the accident.

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