The following story by John King was published Sept. 17, 2010 in the San Francisco Chronicle.
State investigators leveled fines Thursday totaling $176,165 against Pacific Gas & Electric Co. for the electrocution of a utility employee in Benicia.
The financial penalty is by far the largest that has been levied against PG&E as a result of an employee death in the past six years, said a spokeswoman for the state Department of Industrial Relations.
The fine was in response to the March 17 death of Maximiliano Martinez, 26, who was electrocuted while installing a transformer in a vault in a residential neighborhood in Benicia.
The investigation by Cal/OSHA faulted the utility in particular for a “serious willful accident related” violation. It fined PG&E $70,000 for what it described as lax measures to protect employees “from coming into contact with the energized electrical parts.”
Other citations penalized PG&E for not ensuring that workers were using proper safety equipment, and not making sure that transformer components were grounded and insulated before work began.
This is the sixth death of a PG&E employee that Cal/OSHA has investigated, said Krisann Chasarik of the Department of Industrial Relations. In only one other case was PG&E found to be at fault, a 2008 electrocution for which citations totaling $36,900 were issued.
The utility has 15 working days to file an appeal. A PG&E spokesperson said it is now reviewing the citations.