Public utilities can be among the most dangerous places to work, largely because of the high amounts of energy generated at the facilities. Moving parts, energized equipment and other hazards can pose serious workplace safety problems for workers in all departments. A recent investigation in Arizona's neighboring state of Nevada revealed that a public utility facility accumulated more than 50 safety violations related to daily operations.
The inspection, which was conducted at the famous Hoover Dam Hydroelectric Power Plant, showed that 50 serious and eight repeat safety violations were issued. Administrators were reportedly dismayed to hear that such a prominent facility was struggling to maintain worker safety, and the regional administrator has personally pledged to improve working conditions.
Among the serious safety violations were citations for fall and electrical hazards, as well as inappropriate machine guarding, lack of personal protective equipment and poor safety procedures. Workers were also found to have been exposed to lead, which is one of the most heavily regulated substances in today's modern workforce. Lead is such a dangerous substance that it has been given its own specific standard governing its treatment in manufacturing plants.
Eight repeat violations focused on the facility's failure to anchor heavy equipment to prevent it from toppling over onto workers. Machine guards were also found to be missing, which could cause worker injury by sucking body parts, hair and clothing into rotating machine components. Electrical violations and an absence of fire extinguishers was also noted during the inspection. Those violations had been identified during at least one inspection in the past five years, according to OSHA records.
Federal agencies are required under national law to comply with the same regulations as private entities. That means that the government group that runs the Hoover Dam must also follow safety rules that apply to private business operators.
Occupational safety inspectors say the company has 15 business days to contest the findings or comply with the agency's directives.
Source: United States Department of Labor, "US Department of Labor's OSHA finds 58 safety and health violations at Hoover Dam Hydroelectric Power Plant in Boulder City, Nev.," Deanne Amaden & Jose A. Carnevali, Jan. 14, 2013.