The U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration has proposed penalties of $333,560 against Eversource Energy for five workplace safety violations related to an arc flash and blast last summer that killed a 31-year-old worker.
Eversource employees were doing maintenance work on electrical equipment in an underground electrical vault July 12, the agency said. As one employee set the equipment back into place, an arc flash and arc blast occurred. The worker, identified by Eversource as Fabio Pires, suffered severe burns and later died.
The utility did not fully de-energize the electrical equipment or follow the manufacturer’s maintenance recommendations when employees conducted maintenance, OSHA said. It also failed to make a reasonable estimate of the heat energy to which employees would be exposed if an arc flash and blast occurred, it said.
In addition, Eversource did not adequately train employees on electrical equipment hazards, provide rescue equipment or test oxygen levels before the employees entered the vault, an enclosed space, the agency said.
“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,” OSHA Area Director James Mulligan said in a release Thursday. “The company knew the hazards related to this type of high voltage equipment, yet it failed to safeguard its employees as the law requires.”
Eversource spokeswoman Caroline Pretyman said the company disagrees with OSHA’s conclusions and the characterizations of its actions. The utility “will continue to respond accordingly as this process becomes final,” she said in a statement.
“We remain deeply saddened by the passing of our colleague Fabio Pires following the tragic incident in downtown Boston last summer,” Pretyman said. “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.”
OSHA cited Eversource for two willful and three serious violations. Eversource has 15 business days to comply and pay the fine, request an informal conference with OSHA, or contest the findings, the labor agency said.
Pires, who lived in Brockton, Massachusets, was born in Cape Verde and moved to the U.S. with his mother in 1999, according to an obituary. Trained as an electrical engineer, Pires began working at Eversource in 2016.