On April 4, the explosion took place just before 4 p.m. inside the Plant Bowen powerhouse on the Unit 2 generator as it was being taken offline for scheduled maintenance. The blast tore metal panels from the powerhouse walls leaving a gaping hole visible from Covered Bridge Road, The Daily Tribune News reported in April.
In August, Unit 1 at the facility returned to operation. The unit was damaged along with Unit 2 in the explosion. As reported in the May 3 edition of the DTN, the blast was caused by workers not complying with company procedures and not communicating properly.
“Unit 2 was already off-line and was being prepared for maintenance,” said Georgia Power spokesman John Craft in May. “A multi-step procedure to purge hydrogen from the generator was underway, but the process used didn’t comply with procedures and there was a communication breakdown.”
As reported, the mistake caused the combustible mix of hydrogen and air inside the generator to explode, injuring three people and shuttering the two units.
“Fortunately, no one was injured or killed as a result of this explosion,” said Christi Griffin, director of OSHA’s Atlanta-West Area Office, in the release. “Our inspection found several serious safety hazards that the company must address immediately to protect its workers. It is a fundamental responsibility of employers to ensure a safe workplace.”
The serious violations found at Plant Bowen include a failure to comply with OSHA’s tagout procedures for power generation plants; ensure that the worker in charge conducted a safety briefing with workers before they start each job; use a tagout system without demonstrating it solely can provide full workers’ protection; develop, document and use procedures to control potentially hazardous energy; and describe the scope, purpose, responsibility, authorization and techniques for maintenance procedures. Other violations include failing to follow specific procedures to remove and transfer tagout devices; perform an annual inspection of all energy control procedures; use the shutdown procedures established for each machine or equipment; prohibit ignition sources near hydrogen or hydrogen sealing systems; assign a worker the responsibility for overall tagout control; and verify the isolation and de-deenergization of the machine or equipment.
The citations can be viewed at http://www.osha.gov/ooc/citations/GeorgiaPowerCo_900009_0924_13.pdf.
Georgia Power Co., a subsidiary of the Southern Co., employs approximately 26,000 workers, with about 300 at the Plant Bowen facility. The company has 15 business days from receipt of the citations and proposed penalties to comply, request an informal conference with OSHA’s area director, or contest the findings before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission. To ask questions, obtain compliance assistance, file a complaint or report workplace hospitalizations, fatalities or situations posing imminent danger to workers, the public should call OSHA’s toll-free hotline at 800-321-OSHA (6742) or the agency’s Atlanta-West Area Office at 678-903-7301.
Under the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970, employers are responsible for providing safe and healthful workplaces for their employees. OSHA’s role is to ensure these conditions for America’s working men and women by setting and enforcing standards, and providing training, education and assistance. For more information, visit http://www.osha.gov.