Worker Deaths Spur MSHA Safety Alert on Electrical Hazards

Arlington, VA- Prompted by reports of three recent fatalities involving electricity, the Mine Safety and Health Administration has issued a safety alert.

Electricity has killed three people in the mining industry since August 7, 2019.

An electrician contacted an energized component of a 4,160 VAC electrical circuit while adjusting the linkage between the disconnect lever and the internal components of the panel that supplied power to the plant feed belt motors. A contract electrician contacted an energized 120 VAC conductor while working inside a fire suppression system’s electrical
panel. An electrician contacted an exposed energized connector while troubleshooting a 995 VAC flooded bed scrubber motor circuit on-board a continuous mining machine.Electrical Safety Alert

MSHA offers numerous best practices for electrical incident prevention. Among them:

-Perform lockout/tagout procedures on circuits before working on electrical equipment.

-Don’t rush, and never work alone. Talk with co-workers and confirm your plan is safe.

-Identify and control all hazardous energy sources before conducting tasks, and follow safe work procedures.

-Train miners on equipment they may use.

-Always perform troubleshooting without power. If you must troubleshoot an energized circuit, use properly rated personal protective equipment to prevent hazards.

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Fatality at Australian Power Plant Reportedly Caused by Arc Flash

Yallourn, Victoria, Australia – A fatal explosion at an Australian Power Station is said to have been the result of a phase-to-phase arc flash. A unit controller with more than 30 years’ experience was critically injured during the explosion in the southeastern-most state of Australia which lead to his death the next day.

EnergyAustralia has identified arc flash as the cause of the explosion at the Yallourn Power Station, however a local union representative is not confident in that explanation and staff at the power station say they are afraid to go to work.

Graeme Edwards died after a high-voltage circuit breaker he was working on exploded last month. Edwards was re-installing a high-voltage circuit breaker on one of the plant’s four generation units when the explosion occurred, a procedure known as “racking.” EnergyAustralia stated that racking is a routine job but potentially hazardous. In this case, the unit burst into flames that burnt most of Edwards’ body. The worker was flown to hospital in a critical condition but died a day later.fatality arc flash

EnergyAustralia said it believed the “sudden electrical discharge” was caused by a “phase-to-phase arc flash.” However, they have yet to determine what caused the short circuit which is the source of union and worker worries about the safety of the workplace.

An Arc Flash is an electrical explosion due to a fault condition or short circuit when either a phase to ground or phase to phase conductor is connected and current flows through the air. Arc flashes cause electrical equipment to explode and can result in an arc-plasma fireball with temperatures in excess of 35,000° F. For reference, the surface of the sun is 9000° F. These extreme temperatures cause rapid heating of surrounding air and extreme pressures, resulting in an arc blast. The arc flash/blast can vaporize all solid copper conductors as they expand up to 67,000 times original volume. The arc flash produces fire, intense light, pressure waves, and flying shrapnel.

Yallorn Power Station workers will not be asked to use affect equipment involved in the incident until EnergyAustralia determines that it is safe to do so. An executive of Yallourn Power Station has said that risk assessments are being conducted and that all safety controls will be reviewed prior to resuming work.

A representative of the union which advocates for the workers at Yallourn Power station has voiced concerns that workers were not provided with the most up-to-date protective gear, including arc flash suits, similar to what bomb disposal workers use.

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Toxic Fumes Kill Two, Injure Three, at PA Power Plant

Monaca, PA – Workers were killed and injured by toxic fumes while working in a confined space at the Bruce Mansfield Power Station in Beaver County (PA) last week. Two contractors died after inhaling toxic fumes in an underground pit, and three workers above the pit were overcome by toxic gas and hospitalized. If toxic fumes become present in your workplace then you should find a solution to stop workers being killed or injured.

The contractors worked for Enerfab Corp. and were in a ‘confined, well-type’ area. The two workers in the pit, removed an elbow joint in a pipe which released hydrogen sulfide gas into the air in the confined space. 34-year-old Kevin Bachner and 42-year-old John Gorchock, both of Pittsburgh (PA), died.

Many workplaces contain areas that are toxic fumesconsidered “confined spaces” because while they are not necessarily designed for people, they are large enough for workers to enter and perform certain jobs. A confined space also has limited or restricted means for entry or exit and is therefore very dangerous in an emergency. Confined spaces require special signage, safety protocols, and equipment.

The Mansfield Power Station, located about 35 miles northwest of Pittsburgh, is FirstEnergy’s largest coal-fired plant and remains operational. 350 people are employed there.

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Accident at Refinery Power Distribution Center Sends 4 to Hospital

Whiting, IN – The power distribution center at BP’s Whiting Refinery was the scene of an industrial accident last week which sent 4 workers to the hospital.

Details are still limited, but reports from Friday, April 28 indicate that four oil workers were taken by ambulance to area hospitals following an incident at a power distribution center inside the refinery. In a statement, BP said that there was no “impact to power distributionthe environment or the local community.”

The BP Whiting Refinery in northwestern Indiana is described as “sprawling,” and employs more than 1,800 workers as the largest refinery in the Midwest. The facility converts crude oil from Canada and the Dakotas into gasoline sold across the Midwestern United States.

The timing of this industrial accident was unfortunate in that April 28th was Worker’s Memorial Day, an annual event organized by USW chapters nationwide to observe and remember workers killed or injured on the job. Worker’s Memorial Day is designed to highlight workplace safety and accident prevention.

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