Grant County Public Utility District #2 has been fined $35,000 for five serious safety violations following an explosion at its Priest Rapids Dam in Beverly, Wash. Six workers were hospitalized with very serious electrical burns from the incident last October.
Under supervision, the workers were troubleshooting a mechanical problem with a generator. The workers did not know that a circuit had been re-energized when they closed a breaker, which caused the high-voltage electrical arc flash explosion.
An investigation by the Department of Labor & Industries (L&I) concluded that the arc flash could have been prevented if the employer had ensured the use of safety locks and safeguards to prevent the breaker from being closed when other parts of the circuit were energized.
L&I cited the utility district for five serious violations, each with the maximum penalty of $7,000. The investigation found that:
- The employer did not ensure the use of lock-out/tag-out safety devices to prevent inadvertently closing a breaker that could cause an arc flash.
- Employees were not briefed on the circuit conditions that affected them and exposed them to risk of arc flash burns and electrocution.
- Employees were not aware that the lock-out/tag-out devices had been removed from the circuit.
- One worker was not wearing fire-resistant clothing while working on the hydro-electric equipment.
- The employer did not provide any records to show it was in compliance with the state regulation on protecting workers from injury due to hazardous energy.
The utility district has 15 days to appeal the citation. Penalty money paid as a result of a citation is placed in the workers’ compensation supplemental pension fund, helping workers and families of those who have died on the job.