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California orders review of Southern California Edison’s safety practices


By the OGJ Online Staff

HOUSTON, Sept. 18 — Citing 37 accidents linked to alleged safety violations, the California Public Utilities Commission ordered an investigation into Southern California Edison Co.’s compliance with state safety codes for construction, operation, and maintenance of electric lines and facilities.

From 1998 through 2000, the PUC said it uncovered 4,721 alleged safety violations and linked 37 accidents to these violations, 5 of which resulted in deaths and 23 caused serious injuries.

In addition, during routine inspections, a staff report cited 4,044 violations of requirements on poles in Southern California Edison’s service territory and 677 violations of procedures involving underground and pad-mounted structures.

The PUC said the series of “serious injuries” involving SCE’s facilities, coupled with staff’s finding a continuing pattern of a high level of violations during inspections, are cause for serious concern.

In a statement, Southern California Edison Co. said it takes the PUC’s allegations “very seriously” and has started a comprehensive review and analysis of the charges contained in the commission order instituting an investigation.

The company is assessing the document and expects to have a more detailed response soon, it said. The utility unit of Edison International, Rosemead, Calif., said the safety of the public and employees has been a “top priority of our business for over 100 years.”

The company said it works hard to maintain safe and reliable operations, despite the weather, natural disasters, vandalism, and normal wear and tear. Equipment problems are detected, managed, and corrected through an aggressive maintenance program, Southern California Edison said.

The PUC alleged, in at least two instances, Southern California failed to post a “high voltage” signs on poles supporting 16,000 v conductors and individuals were fatally injured after coming into contact with them. The state investigation also alleged the utility violated rules requiring owners of electric systems to exercise due care to reduce to a minimum the hazard of accidental injury to their own or fellow employees.

On Nov. 17, 1998, according to the report, a Southern California Edison lineman was working on a pad-mounted transformer in Camarillo, when he came in contact with an energized 16,000 v conductor. He received third degree burns to his right hand and left finger. The PUC investigation found the pad-mounted structure, which contained exposed 16,000 v conductors, did not have required warning signs posted inside the structure.

In another instance, the PUC said two Southern California Edison employees were working at the top of a pole in Baldwin Park Dec. 20, 1999, when the pole collapsed, causing both of them to fall and become unconscious. The two employees suffered head and back injuries as a result of the fall, it said.

The report cited numerous other examples of Southern California Edison’s alleged failure to take proper safety precautions.