The U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has cited Dominion Energy New England for alleged serious violations of safety standards following a fatal November 6, 2007, steam explosion at the Salem Harbor Power Station in Salem, Mass. Three employees were killed by steam and hot ash when boiler tubes ruptured in the lower vestibule/dead air space of boiler Unit #3 in the plant's boiler house.
OSHA's investigation found that the company failed to take effective steps to protect employees against the hazards of burns and other bodily injuries from hot ash and steam as a result of ruptured or leaking boiler tubes and piping. Specifically, the boiler's lower vestibule/dead air space area, where the rupture occurred, had not been entered or inspected in more than nine years, and entry had been prevented by the accumulation of ash and debris over that period of time.
"The company must initiate and maintain effective safeguards to identify and eliminate such hazards, both to protect its employees and to prevent future leaks, ruptures or explosions," said Rosemarie Ohar, OSHA's acting area director in Methuen. "Proper inspection and maintenance are critical to detecting potentially dangerous conditions."
Corrective measures would include operating, maintaining and inspecting boilers in accordance with the latest industry standards, manufacturer guidelines and guidance, determining an inspection schedule, and cleaning out ash and debris from the lower vestibule/dead air space.
OSHA's inspection also identified several other hazards not directly related to the explosion. These included potential crushing hazards from an improperly installed and equipped overhead hoist system, incorrect storage of compressed gas cylinders, no certified hazard assessment for removing deposits of material from boilers, an unattended powered industrial truck left with its engine running and several electrical hazards.
Dominion Energy New England was issued a total of 10 serious citations carrying a total of $46,800 in proposed fines. A serious citation is issued when death or serious physical harm is likely to result from a hazard about which the employer knew or should have known.
Dominion Energy New England has 15 business days from receipt of its citations to meet with OSHA or to contest its citations and fines before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.