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U.S. issues $1 million in penalties for fatal fire at 324-MW Cabin Creek

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration proposed penalties March 24 totaling $1 million for alleged violations involved in a chemical fire that killed five workers inside a dewatered penstock at the 324-MW Cabin Creek pumped-storage project in Colorado.

OSHA proposed $845,100 in penalties against a contractor doing work at the project, RPI Coating Inc. of Santa Fe Springs, Calif., and $189,900 in proposed penalties against the owner of the hydro plant (No. 2351), Public Service Co. of Colorado, doing business as Xcel Energy.

OSHA issued citations and the proposed penalties against the companies for what it called alleged serious and willful violations of federal workplace safety and health standards. Vapor from a flammable solvent ignited inside the penstock, causing the 2007 fire. (HNN 10/4/07)

�This catastrophe could have been avoided if the companies had followed their critical safety procedures,� Assistant Labor Secretary Edwin Foulke Jr. said. �There should never be such a disregard for the safety of employees. Today's citations should serve as a reminder to all employers about the critical need to always provide a safe and healthful workplace for their employees.�

OSHA issued 48 citations against RPI for alleged violations that included bringing unsafe electrical equipment into the penstock, unsafe handling of flammable liquids, failure to provide employees with adequate ventilation, failure to install carbon monoxide alarms, failure to train for work site chemical hazards, and a lack of fire extinguishers in the work area. Other citations against RPI cited fall hazards, the unsafe storage of flammable liquids inside the penstock, and improper respiratory protection.

Xcel Energy received a total of 21 citations, including two for failing to take precautions to protect its own employees from hazards in the penstock and to arrange for rescue service. OSHA also cited alleged fall hazards, the unsafe storage of compressed gas, and electrical hazards.

The companies have 15 business days to contest the citations and proposed penalties, OSHA said.

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