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Fallen Worker: Michael Tallent, Tennessee

Michael Tallent had turned 27 only a month before the accident that took his life. Michael was working as a craneman's helper for W&O Construction Co. at the Kuwahee Wastewater Treatment Plant, a Knoxville Utilities Board facility on Neyland Dr. in Knoxville, Tenn., on New Year’s Eve 2012.

As the crew began to move a load of sheet metal pilings, the crane's main hoist line came into contact with overhead power lines, striking Michael with a fatal bolt of electricity.

Michael left behind a six-year-old daughter, Kylie Sue.

For the last year of his life Michael had been living with his parents while he looked for work. He had been employed by W&O Construction Co. for about two and a half months when the accident occurred.

Michael was a simple man. Generous and friendly, he was a hard worker who was well-liked by his co-workers. He was planning to train as a welder and looked forward to a career in the construction industry. He came from a tight-knit Knoxville family; he enjoyed helping his parents raise younger children and grandchildren. Michael's father, Rocky Tallent, says his son was an avid fisherman. He also loved to write poetry, and he left behind him a great many poems, which are a consolation to his family.

In response to the incident that took Michael’s life, Tennessee OSHA (TOSHA) charged W&O Construction Co. with 10 serious safety violations and fined it a total of $24,000. The safety violations included allowing untrained and unqualified employees to work as qualified crane operators, riggers and signal persons. TOSHA investigators concluded that all 10 safety violations "were specifically associated with Mr. Tallent's death."

After the accident, the Knoxville News Sentinel reported that W&O had been cited for TOSHA violations 11 times since 2009. That history certainly raises questions as to what the Knoxville Utility Board knew about W&O's deplorable safety record when it entered into a contract with that company, or what it could have known if it had looked into the matter.

Read other stories of fallen workers. Learn more about Workers' Memorial Week of Action.

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