Solar worker's fatal fall serves as safety reminder

Solar worker's fatal fall serves as safety reminder
(Image: Hawaii News Now/File)
(Image: Hawaii News Now/File)

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - James "Kimo" Failing worked three jobs to support himself and his fiance.  One job was installing solar panels.

"We were struggling and he knew that.  And that's why he didn't want to be in that situation anymore," Scarlett Waiwaiole said.

On Wednesday, rain canceled Kimo's installation assignment in Nuuanu.  He and his crew went to 1946 Young Street instead, to measure the building's roof.

"The last time I talked to him he told me he just wanted to come home to me," Waiwaiole said. "So he wanted to just bang it out and come home."

Failing fell to his death. Scarlet said she heard that he wasn't strapped to an anchor point.

"I always told him, no matter what, to always tie down, strap yourself down.  You never know what can happen," she said.

Kimo worked for Island Pacific Energy LLC. Last year, the state fined the company for four serious violations, including employees failing to tie down while on a roof and failing to train a worker to recognize fall hazards.

The director of the state's Labor and Industrial Relations Department said Failing's death is a reminder to the entire solar industry.

"There's some very simple measures that they can take in terms of things like wearing a safety harness, tieing off, having some netting," Linda Chu Takayama said.

State records show last year, seven of the top ten solar companies in Hawaii paid about $78,000 to settle safety violations. Island Pacific Energy paid $1,800 for its citations.

"You have to be safe because look what can happen to you," Waiwaiole said.  "Just something so small.  Just one step cost someone's life."

The state is now investigating Kimo's accident, the solar industry's only fatal fall in the past three years.

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