Washington fines Grant County PUD for October incident at Priest Rapids hydropower plant

Priest Rapids Hydropower Plant

The state of Washington has fined Grant County Public Utility District $35,000 for safety violations after six employees were hospitalized at the 955.6-MW Priest Rapids hydroelectric plant in October.

According to an investigation conducted by Washington's Department of Labor & Industries, the employees were exposed to electrical shock and arc flash while working on a mechanical problem in a breaker room.

Following L&I's review, the company was cited for five violations at Priest Rapids, including:

  • Grant County PUD did not ensure lock-out and tag-out devices were used to prevent the inadvertent closing of breakers that could cause arc flashes;
  • The utility did not provide records to show it was operating in compliance to protect workers from injury from energy-related hazards;
  • One employee was not wearing fire-resistant clothing;
  • Employees were not aware the devices had been removed from the circuit; and
  • Employees were not informed about the condition of the circuits.

Each citation has a maximum penalty of $7,000. Grant County PUD has 15 days to appeal the decision, though a company official told local media outlets that such an appeal is unlikely.

Moneys paid by the utility will be deposited into a supplemental pension fund that pays compensation to workers and families of those who have died on the job.

HydroWorld.com reported that the incident occurred October 8, with some of the injured employees released from the hospital later that week. At least one of the workers is still hospitalized.

Located on the Columbia River, Priest Rapids was began operating in 1956. The hydropower project is currently undergoing a $61.6 million rehabilitation that is slated to be completed in 2026.

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