The CPUC, following a
staff investigation, will consider penalties against PG&E for a contract worker
fatality that occurred while he was dismantling an unused fuel oil tank at the Kern
power plant in Bakersfield.
Cleveland Wrecking Company to dismantle four empty fuel storage tanks at its
retired Kern power plant. On June 19,
2012, a Cleveland Wrecking Company employee did not survive injuries he
sustained when a portion of a fuel tank wall he was dismantling collapsed
inward. The CPUC’s Safety and Enforcement Division’s investigation determined
that PG&E failed to accurately and adequately evaluate safety in contract
bid proposals; did not provide adequate contractor project safety review and
oversight; and neglected to evaluate safer alternatives to manually torch
cutting unsupported, weakened tank walls from an elevated man-lift.
The Safety and
Enforcement Division alleges that PG&E sought to delegate its duty to maintain
a safe system to a third party contractor, and that the utility failed to
monitor and achieve a safety culture at Kern necessary to proactively identify
and mitigate hazards. Further, the Safety and Enforcement Division alleges that
PG&E failed to conduct a prompt and thorough incident root cause analysis, as
requested by the Safety and Enforcement Division, in order to assist in identifying
and implementing effective corrective actions to improve safety and reduce the
likelihood of future incidents.
The Safety and
Enforcement Division concludes that PG&E: 1) violated California Public
Utilities Code Section 451, which requires every public utility to furnish and
maintain its facilities as necessary to promote the safety of its employees,
patrons, and the public, and 2) improperly delegated to an independent
contractor the duties or liabilities imposed on PG&E by state law and CPUC
rules, general orders, and decisions.
Based on the Safety
and Enforcement Division’s staff investigation, the CPUC’s Commissioners today
voted to open a formal proceeding to consider penalties against PG&E for
its role in the incident, as well as consider additional remedies to require
PG&E to correct identified deficiencies and to further improve the safety
culture throughout its operations.