News Release USDL 98-221
Thursday, May 21, 1998
Contact: Frank Kane (202) 219-8151
Cited for safety violations in
OSHA PROPOSES $455,000 IN FINES
AGAINST KANSAS UTILITY
WHERE ELECTRICAL EXPLOSION KILLED
The federal Occupational Safety and Health
Administration (OSHA) today proposed penalties
of $455,000 against Western Resources for
failure to follow safety requirements at
its Lawrence, Kan., Energy Center where
three workers died in an electrical explosion
OSHA cited the company for six alleged willful
and seven alleged serious safety violations,
mostly of the agency's standard on electrical
"Management showed a lack of concern about
taking the required safety precautions that
might have prevented this triple tragedy,"
said OSHA Administrator Charles N. Jeffress.
"Stiff penalties are warranted."
OSHA proposed fines of $70,000 for each of
the willful violations, the maximum permitted
On Nov. 24, 1997, employees had been working
within the minimum safe work distances of a
high-voltage circuit breaker cubicle and removed
safety guards from energized electrical conductors
in the cubicle. Physical evidence indicates that
it was likely that part of one of the safety
guards touched the energized conductors, causing
an electrical explosion with a 26-foot fireball.
One employee was killed instantly and two
other employees (a Western Resources manager
directing the work and the other an employee
of a subcontractor, ABB Services, Inc.) were
fatally injured. Both died several days later
as a result of their injuries.
Western Resources, with corporate headquarters
in Topeka, Kan., is an electric utility company
with multiple locations in the state which,
among other things, distributes power to Kansas
Power & Light and Kansas Gas & Electric. Total
employment for Western Resources is 4,000. The
Lawrence Energy Center is a power generation
facility with 125 employees.
OSHA said that neither the two supervisors
directing the work nor the employee who was
killed instantly had been wearing personal
protective equipment. When the work changed,
exposing the employee to energized electrical
equipment, the managers should have held a
second job briefing to address the changed
work situation and appropriate safety procedures,
but did not.
The violations of the power generation standard
involve training, personal protective equipment,
minimum safe work distances, work planning,
hazardous energy control and safe work practices.
OSHA also proposed penalties totaling $40,000
against the subcontractor, ABB Services of
Kansas City, Mo., for eight alleged serious
Western Resources has 15 working days to contest
the citations and proposed penalties before the
independent Occupational Safety and Health Review
SUMMARY OF CITATIONS AND PROPOSED PENALTIES
WESTERN RESOURCES,INC. LAWRENCE, KAN., ENERGY CENTER
Alleged Willful Violations
Protective equipment was not used when
necessary whenever hazards capable of causing
injury or impairment were encountered.
Qualified employees were not trained and
competent in the minimum approach distances
specified in the standard for the voltages to
which the qualified employee will be exposed.
Employees were not trained and competent
in the proper use of special and precautionary
techniques, personal protective equipment,
insulating and shielding materials and insulated
tools for working on or near exposed energized
parts of electrical equipment.
The employer did not ensure that a second
job briefing was held if significant changes,
which might affect the safety of the employees,
occur during the course of the work.
The employer did not ensure that no employee
approaches or takes any conductive object closer
to exposed energized parts than is permitted
in the standard.
The guarding of energized parts within a
compartment was not maintained during operation
and maintenance functions to prevent accidental
contact with energized parts and to prevent tools
or other equipment from being dropped on energized
Total Penalties for Alleged
Willful Violations = $420,000
(Willful violations are those committed
with an intentional disregard of, or plain
indifference to, the requirements of the
Occupational Safety and Health Act and
Alleged Serious Violations
The employer did not assess the workplace
to determine if hazards were present or likely
to be present that necessitated the use of
personal protective equipment.
Electrical protective equipment not
subjected to periodic tests as required
by the standard.
Employees not trained and familiar
with electrical safety-related work practices
and procedures pertaining to their job assignments.
The employer did not certify that employees
had received required training.
Existing conditions related to the safety
of the work were not determined before work on
or near electric lines or equipment was started.
The employer did not require use of a
lockout on energy isolating devices that were
capable of being locked out and the employer
did not demonstrate that use of a tagout system
will provide full employee protection.
Three violations of requirements for
controlling hazardous energy and training
employees in such controls. (Grouped)
The employer did not ensure that each
employee exposed to hazards of flames or
electric arcs did not wear clothing that
would increase the extent of injury that
might be sustained.
Total Penalties for Alleged
Serious Violations = $35,000
(A serious violation is defined as
one in which there is a substantial
probability that death or serious physical
harm could result and the employer knew or
should have known of the hazard.)
GRAND TOTAL OF PROPOSED PENALTIES = $455,000