Utility company cited after fatal arc flash incident
17 January 2023
The US Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration has cited utility company Eversource Energy Service for five violations of workplace safety standards after its investigation of a fatal arc flash and arc blast in Boston, Massachusetts in July 2022 that led to a worker's death.
At the time of the incident, Eversource employees were doing maintenance work on electrical equipment located inside an underground electrical vault in Boston’s Beacon Hill neighbourhood on 12 July 2022. As one employee set the equipment back into place, an arc flash and blast occurred inside the vault. The employee suffered severe burns and later died.
Investigators found that Eversource:
- Did not fully deenergise the electrical equipment or follow the manufacturer’s maintenance recommendations when employees conducted maintenance.
- Failed to make a reasonable estimate of the heat energy to which employees would be exposed if an arc flash and blast occurred.
- Did not adequately train the employees on electrical equipment hazards, provide rescue equipment nor test oxygen levels before the employees entered the vault, an enclosed space.
"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," said OSHA Area Director James Mulligan in Braintree, Massachusetts. "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 has cited Eversource for two wilful and three serious violations with a total of $333,560 in proposed penalties.
Eversource transmits and delivers electricity and other energy products to customers in Connecticut, Massachusetts and New Hampshire. The company has 15 business days from receipt of its citations and penalties to comply, request an informal conference with OSHA’s area director or contest the findings before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.