State labor officials today fined Progress Energy $31,500 for safety violations that contributed to the death of an employee in March at a power plant in Wilmington.
The N.C. Department of Labor cited the Raleigh-based electric utility for nine serious safety infractions in violation of the state's Occupational Safety and Health Act, commonly known as OSHA.
In the accident, Corey Rogers, a 24-year-old technician, was killed by a hydrogen explosion while he was performing maintenance at the Sutton coal-fired plant.
"The penalties are in no way designed to make up for loss of life," the labor department said. "Fines are issued to penalize the offending employer but also to get the attention of other employers with similar work environments."
Progress is evaluating the agency's decision. Within the utility's culture, worker safety is stressed as a top priority.
"We have not yet made a decision on contesting," said spokesman Mike Hughes. "We take these issues very, very seriously."
The labor department found nine violations in the March incident and ranked each of them as "serious." The maximum fine for a serious violation is $7,000, but Progress was fined $3,500 for each citation.
Among the problems discovered in the investigation, Progress had failed to post warning signs in the area where the explosion occurred, lacked equipment to test for the presence of hydrogen in the area, did not prohibit smoking in the area, and left ingition sources nearby, including a golf cart charger and an AC unit.
Despite their name, serious violations are not the most serious in the OSHA system. A "willful" violation carries a maximum fine of $70,000.
OSHA fines are distributed to public school systems.