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50-Foot Fall Kills Worker at Power Plant

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

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A 50-foot fall from an aerial lift basket has claimed the life of a subcontractor’s employee at an old Pacific Gas & Electric Co. plant in Bakersfield, CA.

Luis Roberto Minjarez, 51, of Los Angeles was cutting apart an empty oil storage tank at the decommissioned Kern Power Plant when the accident occurred about 9:15 a.m. Tuesday (June 19), authorities said.

 The Kern Power Plant operated from 1948 to 1985

 Photos: Pacific Gas & Electric

The Kern Power Plant operated from 1948 to 1985. Demolition began in December.

The California Division of Occupational Safety and Health (Cal/OSHA) is investigating the case—the second death during a tank demolition in California on Tuesday.

Tank Dismantling

Minjarez was an employee of the Cleveland Wrecking Company, which gained a contract in March to demolish the power plant. Demolition of the fuel tanks began this month.

Working from the basket of an aerial lift, Minjarez was making vertical cuts about 30 to 40 feet apart on the tank, Cal/OSHA spokesman Peter Melton said Wednesday (June 20).

Another employee was making similar cuts on the opposite side of the tank, which had no lid or cover.

“There was no lateral support on the tank as it was being cut, so when he made the second parallel cut, the metal bent forward and hit the basket, knocking the employee onto the floor below,” said Melton.

The basket was knocked sideways, not over, but Minjarez fell out, Melton said. Melton said Minjarez “may have been” wearing a safety harness that was “apparently attached to the basket,” but details were still emerging and could not be confirmed.

Minjarez was taken to Kern Medical Center, where he died two hours later.

‘A Sad Day’

Cleveland Wrecking Co., based in Covina, CA, is a division of URS Corp. Minjarez had worked for the company for 14 years, president Jim Sheridan said in a statement to the Bakersfield Californian.

“Today is a sad day for the Cleveland Wrecking Company family,” the statement said.

 PG&E said that Cleveland Wrecking was selected, in part, “for its exemplary safety record.”
Cleveland Wrecking received a contract in March to perform the demolition. PG&E said the company was selected, in part, “for its exemplary safety record.”

Work at the plant was shut down after the accident, and Sheridan told the newspaper that he did not know when the work would resume.

The plant was shut down in 1985, and PG&E has been unable to find a buyer. PG&E began to dismantle the plant late last year, removing several cooling towers, a large chiller and three storage buildings.

In December, the utility announced a three-year plan to remove the remaining structures—a concrete power block, fuel storage tanks, small storage buildings and the concrete foundations of the buildings removed earlier—and clean up the 120-acre property.

Other Accidents

OSHA records show two previous accidents in the last nine years involving Cleveland Wrecking.

In October 2003, a worker suffered a broken leg when a chunk of ceiling plaster in a historical building fell and knocked over the rolling scaffold on which the employee was standing. The employee’s leg was pinned under the scaffold. The company was cited for one Other than Serious citation and fined $300.

In February 2004, another employee suffered multiple fractures to his leg while transporting a gas tank that weighed 700 to 800 pounds. Two workers were moving the cylinder on a cart when the cart hit a hole and tipped, falling with the tank on the employee’s leg. No citations were issued.


Tagged categories: Access; Accidents; Fall protection; lift; OSHA; Power Plants

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