The state of Washington is fining the Grant County PUD $35,000 for safety violations related to an Oct. 9 electrical explosion at the Priest Rapids Dam on the Columbia River.
Six workers were hospitalized with serious electrical burns, with one man spending almost a month in intensive care at Harborview Medical Center in Seattle.
Most — but not all — of the injured employees have returned to work, said Thomas Stredwick, spokesman for the public utility district.
Grant PUD is unlikely to appeal the fine, Stredwick said. The results of the state Department of Labor & Industries investigation are consistent with the PUD’s internal investigation.
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The L&I citation said workers were in a breaker room troubleshooting a mechanical problem at one of the generators at the dam near Beverly when the explosion occurred. Five employees and one manager were exposed to electrical shock and arc flash for about 20 minutes, the citation said.
It listed five violations, with each violation fined the maximum penalty of $7,000.
We are working to affirm every employee’s commitment to speak up when it comes to potential safety issues.
Thomas Stredwick, PUD spokesman
Grant PUD did not ensure that lockout/tag-out devices were in place to isolate a breaker from an energized circuit, and employees were not aware that the lockout/tag-out devices had been removed from the circuit, according to L&I.
The lead worker should have conducted a job briefing to explain the circuit conditions, but the electrical hazard was not discussed with workers.
A hydro electrician working on the actuator for the breaker, which was energized, was not wearing arc protective clothing.
In addition, Grant PUD did not provide any records to show it had adhered to a required lockout/tag-out program. Energy control procedures affect the entire facility as well as the breaker room for the generator where the electrical explosion occurred, according to L&I.
Grant PUD will conduct a holistic assessment of its safety culture, Stredwick said. The assessment will include a review of standard operating procedures and will look for opportunities to provide additional training.
“We are working to affirm every employee’s commitment to speak up when it comes to potential safety issues,” he said.
Fines paid to L&I are placed in a workers’ compensation supplemental pension fund to help workers and the families of those who have died on the job.