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Arc flash incident that injured three at Massachusetts hydro plant not investigated by OSHA

01 August 2016

An arc flash explosion from a 600-volt electrical panel at Ware River Power in Ware, Massachusetts, on April 17 injured three employees, two seriously. A follow-up by local media has established that the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), which initially was expected to conduct an investigation, did not do so.

Journalists from The Republican obtained the Massachusetts State Police Fire and Explosion Investigation Unit report, which said investigators "determined that the incident was not suspicious and was likely the result of some type of human or mechanical accident."

The unit contacted OSHA after the incident and was informed that due to the low minimum number of total employees at Ware River Power, OSHA would not be involved in an investigation. It then contacted the Massachusetts Department of Industrial Accidents which said that because the employees had workmen's compensation, their office would not be conducting an investigation either.

The report showed that an investigation by the insurance company handling the compensation claims has not been completed. The report says the insurance company "believed that there may be a mechanical issue with the fuse disconnect switch" in the electrical panel.

The explosion happened when the worker who was the most seriously burned pulled a lever on the 600-volt box to disconnect power while the other two injured workers were behind him.

WRP's facility consists of two dams and five turbines on the Ware River, and is part of a larger operation that owns and operates five dams on local rivers generating more than 2 megawatts, or enough electricity for 2,000 houses.

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