Mattawa, WA – Five electricians and dam operators were hospitalized last week in an arc flash accident at the Priest Rapids Dam located on the Columbia River in central Washington state, bordering Yakima and Grant counties. Six workers total were injured as a result of an electrical equipment malfunction which caused an explosion at the hydroelectric dam.
The Grant County Public Utility District said that the explosion happened in the dam’s powerhouse. Two dam workers were treated in intensive care with “large burns,” the other three suffered slightly less severe burns. The five men were airlifted to Seattle following the explosion at the hydropower dam.
Pacific Northwest National Lab’s chief electrical engineer Jeff Dagle explained an arc flash results from a short circuit involving high-voltage electricity. Circuit breakers are designed to minimize arc flash and a failure with those may now be a focus of the accident investigation.
The PUD said damage from the explosion was limited to one generating unit. The rest of Priest Rapids Dam continues to operate and no threat is anticipated to downstream communities.
The Priest Rapids Dam was built in the 1950s and is one of two operated by the Grant PUD along the Columbia River. The publicly-owned utility serves about 46,000 customers in Grant County, which is about 150 miles east of Seattle. The concrete dam is 178 feet high and more than 10,000 feet long
Tacoma, WA – Manke Lumber Company Inc., of Tacoma, has been fined by the Washington State Department of Labor & Industries (L&I) for 25 serious and 11 general safety and health violations, totaling $87,120.
An investigation began in December of 2014, following the fatal injury of a worker at the facility. Jeffrey Busha died on the job at Manke Lumber when his clothing was caught by a rotating shaft that pulled him into a conveyor as he was trying to loosen jammed lumber. The fatal incident prompted L&I to do a comprehensive safety and health inspection of the entire worksite.
Manke Lumber was fined $6,600 for not safeguarding exposed shafts in four locations, including the conveyor where the worker died. The exposed shafts created the potential for workers to become entangled, which can cause severe injuries, permanent disability and death.
The investigation also found a serious-repeat violation with a penalty of $8,400 for not ensuring that bench grinders were guarded to prevent severe injuries to the hand and face. The company had been previously cited for the violation in 2013.
Additionally, Manke Lumber was cited for serious violations for hazards related to “confined spaces.” Confined spaces are enclosed areas where employees are required to enter to perform maintenance and repair. Examples include hoppers, conveyors and dryers. Entering confined spaces may expose workers to the risk of suffocation, toxic atmospheres, engulfment, entrapment or other harm.
When a confined space has one or more hazardous characteristics that could harm workers, employers must control access to the area and use a permit system to prevent unauthorized entry. Anyone working in or around a permit-required confined space must be trained and there must be safety measures and rescue procedures in place.
The employer was cited for 12 violations for confined space hazards and fined $14,400.
Additional penalties totaling $57,720 were assessed for violations that included failing to guard moving parts on belt sanders, bandsaws, sprocket wheels, and pulleys; exposing workers to falls into unprotected holes and openings in the floor and open-sided elevated areas up to 10 feet; electrical hazards; failing to remove worn and damaged web slings from service; and not storing wood dust properly to prevent fire and/or explosion hazards.
Puget Sound, WA – An investigation by the Washington Department of Labor & Industries has cited and fined two Puget Sound-area companies for 19 safety and health violations each, finding that temporary workers were entering fuel tanks with no controls in place to ensure their health and safety.
Inspections began last October after the state Department of Ecology notified L&I that workers were entering the fuel tanks to clean and service them but that no safety procedures were being used when working in the tanks.
These fuel tanks are 20′ long, 8′ wide, and 8′ tall, with a 20-inch entry hatch on top. In order to clean inside the tanks, workers climbed through the hatch and down a 6-foot stepladder. Entering fuel tanks exposes workers to confined space hazards that can include suffocation, toxic atmospheres, engulfment, entrapment or other dangerous conditions. Additionally, confined space hazards endanger rescue personnel.
The companies fined are Smarttalent LLC., of Kirkland, and Innovative Repairs, of Fife, WA. Smarttalent is a temporary staffing agency that provides workers to Innovative Repairs, which in turn services fuel tanks and containers for mining operations in Alaska. Smarttalent was fined $120,400, and Innovative Repairs has been fined $46,200.