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$80,000 in Fines Proposed against Narragansett Electric Co., Inc.
The U.S. Labor Department's Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has cited Narragansett Electric Company, Inc., of Providence, Rhode Island, for alleged Willful and Serious violations of the Occupational Safety and Health Act following an accident at its Olneyville Substation on Dike Street in Providence and has proposed penalties against the utility totaling $80,000.
According to Kipp W. Hartmann, OSHA area director for Rhode Island, the alleged violations were discovered during an inspection initiated September 21, 1999. On that day, three Narragansett Electric workers were opening and closing disconnect switches to reenergize circuits that had been out of service for maintenance. Two of the workers were burned when they were exposed to a high voltage electrical flash caused by a defective disconnect switch.
"The inspection determined that the accident stemmed from a combination of defective equipment, failure to follow safe work procedures and inadequate supervision," said Hartmann. "The defective switch had not been replaced, lines and equipment had not been grounded nor tested to ensure that they were deenergized, steps in the switching procedure had been left out, performed out of order or not followed, and the System Operator overseeing the work at the time of the accident had not received the required training to be considered qualified to perform those duties."
In addition, he noted, the rubber gloves used by the workers were not numbered or labeled to show they had passed safety testing and one of the workers wore a nylon shirt which burned and melted onto his skin, exacerbating his injuries.
"Basic safeguards were not followed at this jobsite," said Hartmann. "A combination of effective equipment, adhering to safe work practices and qualified supervision would have prevented this accident and reduced the risk of electrical contact for these workers."
Specifically, the citations and proposed penalties encompass:
One alleged Willful violation, with a proposed penalty of $55,000, for:
failure to ensure that all System Operators received adequate training to be qualified to perform their duties and failure to ensure that grounds were installed, lines and equipment tested to ensure they were deenergized and tags were complete.
Five alleged Serious violations, with proposed penalties of $25,000, for:
failure to provide a place of employment free from recognized hazards likely to cause death or serious injury in that employees were exposed to an intense high voltage flash from a defective solid blade disconnect switch;
employees exposed to the hazard of electrical contact from ungrounded lines and equipment;
failure to conduct annual inspections to determine that were employees were aware of and complying with safe electrical work practices;
rubber gloves were not marked to show they had been safety tested;
failure to ensure that exposed employees did not wear clothing that could increase the extent of injuries in that a nylon shirt worn next to an employee's skin burned and melted, increasing the extent of the injury.
Hartmann urged Ocean State employers and employees with questions regarding workplace safety and health standards to contact the OSHA area office in Providence at 401-528-4669 and added that OSHA's toll-free, nationwide hotline --1-800-321-OSHA (1-800-321-6742)-- may be used to report workplace accidents or fatalities or situations posing imminent danger to workers, especially if they occur outside of normal business hours.
A willful violation is defined by OSHA as one committed with an intentional disregard of, or plain indifference to, the requirements of the Occupational Safety and Health Act and regulations.
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.
OSHA is empowered by the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970 to issue standards and rules requiring employers to provide their employees with safe and healthful workplaces and jobsites, and to assure through workplace inspections that those standards are followed.
Narragansett Electric has 15 business days from receipt of the citations and proposed penalties to either elect to comply with them, to request and participate in an informal conference with the OSHA area director, or to contest them before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.
The information in this release will be made available to sensory impaired individuals upon request. Voice phone: (617) 565-2072. TDD (Telecommunications Device for the Deaf) Message Referral Phone: 800-347-8029.
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