BOSTON (State House News Service) — Federal safety officials on Thursday cited and fined Eversource for five workplace safety standards violations stemming from a fatal arc flash and arc blast that occurred this summer outside the State House and McCormack office building.
Loud banging noises rang out in the vicinity of the State House shortly before 6 p.m. on July 12 followed by smoke billowing from a manhole on the Bowdoin Street sidewalk just past the McCormack Building's parking garage. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration said that Eversource employees were doing maintenance work on equipment located inside an underground electrical vault at 28 Bowdoin St. When one employee put the equipment back into place, OSHA said, an arc flash and blast occurred inside the vault. One of the workers suffered severe burns and later died.
OSHA said Thursday that its investigation found that Eversource had not fully deenergized the electrical equipment and did not follow the manufacturer's maintenance recommendations, that the company failed to make a "reasonable estimate" of the heat energy that would affect employees if an arc flash and blast occurred, did not adequately train its employees on electrical equipment hazards, did not provide rescue equipment, and did not test oxygen levels before the employees entered the enclosed electrical vault.
"Eversource could have prevented this arc flash and blast -- and its tragic outcome -- by ensuring effective and necessary training, procedures and work practices were provided and followed," James Mulligan, director of the OSHA region headquartered in Braintree, said. "The company knew the hazards related to this type of high voltage equipment, yet it failed to safeguard its employees as the law requires."
OSHA proposed a total fine of $333,560 for the two willful and three serious violations that its investigation revealed. Eversource has 15 business days to either accept the findings and penalties, to request a conference with OSHA, or to contest the findings to the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.
In a statement Thursday, Eversource named the deceased worker as Fabio Pires and said the company remains deeply saddened by his death.
"Safety is the most fundamental aspect of our everyday focus to provide reliable energy service, and we always strive to lead by example in accordance with industry best practices," Eversource spokeswoman Caroline Pretyman said. "While we disagree with the conclusions reached by OSHA as well as the characterizations of our actions, we share a determination in learning from what happened to prevent future tragedies and will continue to respond accordingly as this process becomes final. We continue to work closely with our union leadership, industry experts and our workforce on additional safety enhancements in all we do to prevent any future reoccurrence and ensure the safety of both our employees and the public we serve."
Written by Colin A. Young/SHNS