Skip to Main Content

An independent federal agency investigating chemical accidents to protect workers, the public, and the environment.

Text Size AA
PRINT PAGE
Xcel Energy Company Hydroelectric Tunnel Fire
FINAL REPORT: CSB's Xcel Energy Company Investigation Report
Location: Georgetown, CO
Accident Occurred On: 10/02/2007
Final Report Released On: 08/25/2010
Accident Type: Confined Space / Asphyxiation
Company Name: Xcel Energy Inc.

statistics

Total # of Recommendations
20
Total # of Open Recommendations
11
Total # of Closed Recommendations
9
Total % of Open 55 vs. Closed 45

investigation information

Image
Accident Description
On October 2, 2007, five people were killed and three others injured when a fire erupted 1,000 feet underground in a tunnel at Xcel Energy Company's hydroelectric power plant in Georgetown, Colorado, located approximately 45 miles west of Denver. The fatally injured workers were trapped deep underground during an operation to coat the inside of the tunnel with epoxy using highly flammable solvents. The tunnel is several thousand feet long and connects two reservoirs with electricity-generating turbines.
Investigation Status
The CSB's final report was released at a news conference on 8.25.2010 in Denver, CO.


 

Recommendations

American Public Power Association (APPA)
2008-01-I-CO-17

Publish safety guidance addressing the hazards and controls for using hazardous materials including flammables in confined spaces and the unique hazards of penstocks. At a minimum

a. In controlling hazards in confined spaces, implement a hierarchy of controls by first attempting to eliminate hazards or substitute with a less hazardous material(s) or method(s). Examples include performing work outside of a confined space where reasonably practicable or substituting a flammable material with a non-flammable one.

b. Establish a maximum permissible percentage substantially below the LEL for safe entry and occupancy of permit-required confined spaces.

c. Recommend that confined spaces that are large, or part of a continuous system such as a penstock, always be managed as permit-required as defined in the OSHA Confined Space Standard, and that such spaces always be monitored for hazardous atmospheres both prior to entry and continuously in areas where work is being performed.

d. Ensure that evacuation plans for penstocks that have only one egress point provide for alternative escape routes or refuge chambers.

e. Provide guidance for implementing a written confined space rescue plan. Address staging and methods of rescue for each designated permit space including whether a rescue team is required to stand by outside the space. Require that confined space rescue teams be standing by at the permit spaces where the hazards pose an immediate threat to life or health, including the hazard of a potential flammable atmosphere.

Status: Open - Acceptable Response or Alternate Response
Open - Acceptable Response or Alternate Response (O - ARAR) - Response from recipient indicates a planned action that would satisfy the objective of the recommendation when implemented.
 

Colorado Division of Emergency Management Director
2008-01-I-CO-7

Publish a safety communication that will inform fire service and emergency planning organizations in the state about the confined space safety lessons learned from the Cabin Creek incident including
a. The need to train and certify emergency response personnel who perform technical, including confined space, rescue.

b. The importance of a written confined space rescue plan for each designated permit space that includes

i. Methods of rescue and determination of whether a rescue team is required to standby outside the space.
ii. Rescue equipment requirements and plan of action.

c. The importance of treating confined spaces with the potential for flammable atmospheres above 10 percent of the LEL as a hazard immediately dangerous to life or health that requires rescuers to be stationed directly outside the permit space and available for immediate rescue with appropriate fire-extinguishing and rescue equipment.

d. The need for confined space rescue procedures to instruct emergency responders to not enter or occupy a confined space containing a flammable atmosphere 10 percent of the LEL or greater. Personal protective equipment (PPE) will not protect rescuers from an explosion in a confined space.
 

Status: Closed - Acceptable Action
Closed - Acceptable Action (C - AA) - The recipient has completed action on the recommendation. The action taken meets the objectives envisioned by the Board.
 

Colorado Division of Fire Safety Director
2008-01-I-CO-7

Publish a safety communication that will inform fire service and emergency planning organizations in the state about the confined space safety lessons learned from the Cabin Creek incident including
a. The need to train and certify emergency response personnel who perform technical, including confined space, rescue.

b. The importance of a written confined space rescue plan for each designated permit space that includes

i. Methods of rescue and determination of whether a rescue team is required to standby outside the space.
ii. Rescue equipment requirements and plan of action.

c. The importance of treating confined spaces with the potential for flammable atmospheres above 10 percent of the LEL as a hazard immediately dangerous to life or health that requires rescuers to be stationed directly outside the permit space and available for immediate rescue with appropriate fire-extinguishing and rescue equipment.

d. The need for confined space rescue procedures to instruct emergency responders to not enter or occupy a confined space containing a flammable atmosphere 10 percent of the LEL or greater. Personal protective equipment (PPE) will not protect rescuers from an explosion in a confined space.
 

Status: Closed - Acceptable Action
Closed - Acceptable Action (C - AA) - The recipient has completed action on the recommendation. The action taken meets the objectives envisioned by the Board.
 

Colorado Public Utilities Commission
2008-01-I-CO-4

Revise your rules regulating electric utilities, 4 Code of Colorado Regulations 723-3, to:

a. Require regulated utilities to investigate the facts, conditions, and circumstances of all incidents resulting in death, serious injury or significant property damage as defined in Section 3204

b. Require utilities to submit a written investigation report to the Commission within one year of the incident that contains the investigation findings, root causes and recommendations for preventing future incidents that focus on needed changes to utility safety systems. All reports shall be made public.

c. Authorize the commission to issue orders addressing needed corrective actions to be taken as a result of the incident.

d. Require utilities to submit periodic reports to the Commission detailing action taken on the incident report recommendations and Commission orders. All reports shall be made the public.

Status: Closed - Unacceptable Action/No Response Received
Closed - Unacceptable Action/No Response Received (C - UA/NRR) - Recipient responds by expressing disagreement with the need outlined in the recommendation and the Board concludes that further correspondence on, or discussion of, the matter would not change the recipient?s position.
 

Download
2008-01-I-CO-5

Revise your rules regulating electric utilities, 4 Code of Colorado Regulations 723-3, to:

Require all regulated utilities to fully cooperate with all government safety investigations including facilitating access to witnesses, facilities, and equipment; providing copies of requested records; and responding to interrogatories and other investigative requests for information as expeditiously as possible.

Status: Closed - Unacceptable Action/No Response Received
Closed - Unacceptable Action/No Response Received (C - UA/NRR) - Recipient responds by expressing disagreement with the need outlined in the recommendation and the Board concludes that further correspondence on, or discussion of, the matter would not change the recipient?s position.
 

Download
2008-01-I-CO-6

Revise your rules regulating electric utilities, 4 Code of Colorado Regulations 723-3, to:

Require that competitive bidding and contractor selection rules for construction, maintenance or repair of regulated utilities include procedures for prequalifying or disqualifying contractors based on specific safety performance measures and qualifications.

Status: Closed - Unacceptable Action/No Response Received
Closed - Unacceptable Action/No Response Received (C - UA/NRR) - Recipient responds by expressing disagreement with the need outlined in the recommendation and the Board concludes that further correspondence on, or discussion of, the matter would not change the recipient?s position.
 

Download
Governor of the State of Colorado
2008-01-I-CO-3

Implement, through the Division of Fire Safety, an accredited firefighter certification program for technical rescue that encompasses appropriate specialty areas including confined space rescue.

Status: Closed - Acceptable Action
Closed - Acceptable Action (C - AA) - The recipient has completed action on the recommendation. The action taken meets the objectives envisioned by the Board.
 

Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA)
2008-01-I-CO-1

Amend the OSHA Permit-Required Confined Spaces Rule for general industry (29 CFR 1910.146) to establish a maximum permissible percentage substantially below the lower explosive limit (LEL) for safe entry and occupancy in permit-required confined spaces.

Status: Open - Awaiting Response or Evaluation/Approval of Response
Open - Awaiting Response or Evaluation/Approval of Response (O - ARE/AR) - The recipient has not submitted a substantive response, or the evaluation by CSB staff of a response is pending, or the Board has not yet acted on staff recommendation of status.
 

2008-01-I-CO-2

Publish a “Safety and Health Information Bulletin” addressing the hazards and controls when using flammable materials in confined spaces that includes actionable guidance regarding:
 
a. The importance of implementing a hierarchy of controls to address hazards in a confined space that first seeks to eliminate hazards or substitute with a less hazardous material(s) or method(s). Examples include performing work outside of a confined space where reasonably practicable or substituting a flammable material with a non-flammable one.

b. The necessity of establishing a maximum permissible percentage substantially below the lower explosive limit (LEL) for safe entry and occupancy of permit required confined spaces.

c. The need to comprehensively control all potential ignition sources and continuously monitor the confined space at appropriate locations and elevations when work activities involve the use of flammable materials or where flammable atmospheres may be created.

d. The importance of treating confined spaces with the potential for flammable atmospheres above 10 percent of the LEL as a hazard immediately dangerous to life or health (IDLH) that requires rescuers to be stationed directly outside the permit space and available for immediate rescue with appropriate fire-extinguishing and rescue equipment.

e. The requirement that confined spaces such as penstocks be managed as permit-required that are so large or part of a continuous system that they cannot be fully characterized from the entry point. Such spaces need to be monitored for hazardous atmospheres both prior to entry and continuously in areas where entrants are working.

Status: Open - Acceptable Response or Alternate Response
Open - Acceptable Response or Alternate Response (O - ARAR) - Response from recipient indicates a planned action that would satisfy the objective of the recommendation when implemented.
 

RPI Coating, Inc.
2008-01-I-CO-13

Revise your confined space entry program and practices. At a minimum

a. Require continuous monitoring for flammable atmospheres at appropriate locations and elevations within a confined space where work activities involve the use of flammables or where flammable atmospheres may be created.

b. Prohibit entry or require evacuation of a confined space if the atmospheric concentration of flammable vapors is 10 percent of the LEL or higher.

c. Ensure that confined spaces such as penstocks be managed as permit-required that are so large or part of a continuous system that they cannot be fully characterized from the entry point. Ensure that such spaces are monitored for hazardous atmospheres both prior to entry and continuously in areas where entrants are working.

d. Ensure that evacuation plans for penstocks that have only one egress point provide for alternative escape routes and/or refuge chambers.

e. Ensure the implementation of a written confined space rescue preplan for each designated permit space. Address staging and methods of rescue for each designated permit space including whether a rescue team is required to standby outside the space. Require that confined space rescue teams be standing by at the permit spaces where the hazards pose an immediate threat to life or health including the hazard of a potential flammable atmosphere.

Status: Closed - Acceptable Action
Closed - Acceptable Action (C - AA) - The recipient has completed action on the recommendation. The action taken meets the objectives envisioned by the Board.
 

Download
2008-01-I-CO-14

Based on the findings and conclusions of this report, hire a certified safety professional to conduct periodic safety audits at your worksites. At a minimum, assess safety training, confined space safety, safe handling of flammables, emergency response, rescue, and fire prevention.

Status: Open - Unacceptable Response
Open - Unacceptable Response (O - UR) - Recipient responds by expressing disagreement with the need outlined in the recommendation. The Board believes, however, that there is enough supporting evidence to ask the recipient to reconsider.
 

2008-01-I-CO-15

Ensure that all journeyman painters have received safety training equivalent in content to that covered in the Joint Apprenticeship program. At a minimum, address confined space safety, safe handling of flammables, emergency response and rescue, and fire prevention.

Status: Open - Unacceptable Response
Open - Unacceptable Response (O - UR) - Recipient responds by expressing disagreement with the need outlined in the recommendation. The Board believes, however, that there is enough supporting evidence to ask the recipient to reconsider.
 

Society for Protective Coatings (SSPC)
2008-01-I-CO-16

Publish safety guidance addressing the hazards and controls for using hazardous materials including flammables in confined spaces and the unique hazards of penstocks. At a minimum

a. In controlling hazards in confined spaces, implement a hierarchy of controls by first attempting to eliminate hazards or substitute with a less hazardous material(s) or method(s). Examples include performing work outside of a confined space where reasonably practicable or substituting a flammable material with a non-flammable one.

b. Establish a maximum permissible percentage substantially below the LEL for safe entry and occupancy of permit-required confined spaces.

c. Recommend that confined spaces that are large, or part of a continuous system such as a penstock, always be managed as permit-required as defined in the OSHA Confined Space Standard, and that such spaces always be monitored for hazardous atmospheres both prior to entry and continuously in areas where work is being performed.

d. Ensure that evacuation plans for penstocks that have only one egress point provide for alternative escape routes or refuge chambers.

e. Provide guidance for implementing a written confined space rescue plan. Address staging and methods of rescue for each designated permit space including whether a rescue team is required to stand by outside the space. Require that confined space rescue teams be standing by at the permit spaces where the hazards pose an immediate threat to life or health, including the hazard of a potential flammable atmosphere.

Status: Closed - Acceptable Action
Closed - Acceptable Action (C - AA) - The recipient has completed action on the recommendation. The action taken meets the objectives envisioned by the Board.
 

Southern California Painting and Drywall Industries Joint Apprenticeship and Training Committee
2008-01-I-CO-18

Require that all journeyman painters who are employees and/or members have received safety training equivalent in content to that covered in the Joint Apprenticeship program. At a minimum, address confined space safety, safe handling of flammables, emergency response and rescue, and fire prevention.

Status: Open - Awaiting Response or Evaluation/Approval of Response
Open - Awaiting Response or Evaluation/Approval of Response (O - ARE/AR) - The recipient has not submitted a substantive response, or the evaluation by CSB staff of a response is pending, or the Board has not yet acted on staff recommendation of status.
 

2008-01-I-CO-19

Include a safety knowledge and skills component to your journeyman and apprentice evaluation criteria.

Status: Closed - Acceptable Action
Closed - Acceptable Action (C - AA) - The recipient has completed action on the recommendation. The action taken meets the objectives envisioned by the Board.
 

Download
Xcel Energy, Inc.
2008-01-I-CO-8

Revise your policies for solicitation and procurement of construction services to

a. Ensure that requests for proposals (RFPs) and selection processes include criteria and procedures for prequalifying or disqualifying contractors based on specific safety performance measures and qualifications.

b. Implement written verification procedures for the safety information and documentation submitted by contractors during the bidding and selection process.

Status: Open - Awaiting Response or Evaluation/Approval of Response
Open - Awaiting Response or Evaluation/Approval of Response (O - ARE/AR) - The recipient has not submitted a substantive response, or the evaluation by CSB staff of a response is pending, or the Board has not yet acted on staff recommendation of status.
 

2008-01-I-CO-9

Revise your contractor safety policies to require a comprehensive review and evaluation of contractor safety policies and procedures such as the permit-required confined space program and safety performance of contractors working in confined spaces to ensure that any bidding contractor meets or exceeds Xcel Energy safety requirements.

Status: Open - Awaiting Response or Evaluation/Approval of Response
Open - Awaiting Response or Evaluation/Approval of Response (O - ARE/AR) - The recipient has not submitted a substantive response, or the evaluation by CSB staff of a response is pending, or the Board has not yet acted on staff recommendation of status.
 

2008-01-I-CO-10

Conduct periodic safety audits of contractor selection and oversight at your power-generating facilities to ensure adherence to corporate contractor procurement and safety policies.

Status: Open - Awaiting Response or Evaluation/Approval of Response
Open - Awaiting Response or Evaluation/Approval of Response (O - ARE/AR) - The recipient has not submitted a substantive response, or the evaluation by CSB staff of a response is pending, or the Board has not yet acted on staff recommendation of status.
 

2008-01-I-CO-11

Report key findings, causes and recommendations of the CSB report to Xcel shareholders so that the owners of Xcel are fully informed of the report contents and how Xcel intends to prevent a similar accident in the future.

Status: Open - Awaiting Response or Evaluation/Approval of Response
Open - Awaiting Response or Evaluation/Approval of Response (O - ARE/AR) - The recipient has not submitted a substantive response, or the evaluation by CSB staff of a response is pending, or the Board has not yet acted on staff recommendation of status.
 

2008-01-I-CO-12

Revise your confined space entry program and practices. At a minimum

a. Require continuous monitoring for flammable atmospheres at appropriate locations and elevations within a confined space where work activities involve the use of flammables or where flammable atmospheres may be created.

b. Prohibit entry or require evacuation of a confined space if the atmospheric concentration of flammable vapors is 10 percent of the LEL or higher.

c. Ensure that confined spaces such as penstocks be managed as permit-required that are so large or part of a continuous system that they cannot be fully characterized from the entry point. Ensure that such spaces are monitored for hazardous atmospheres both prior to entry and continuously in areas where entrants are working.

d. Ensure that evacuation plans for penstocks that have only one egress point provide for alternative escape routes and/or refuge chambers.

e. Ensure the implementation of a written confined space rescue preplan for each designated permit space. Address staging and methods of rescue for each designated permit space including whether a rescue team is required to standby outside the space. Require that confined space rescue teams be standing by at the permit spaces where the hazards pose an immediate threat to life or health including the hazard of a potential flammable atmosphere.

Status: Open - Awaiting Response or Evaluation/Approval of Response
Open - Awaiting Response or Evaluation/Approval of Response (O - ARE/AR) - The recipient has not submitted a substantive response, or the evaluation by CSB staff of a response is pending, or the Board has not yet acted on staff recommendation of status.
 

 
 

Related Video

No Escape: Dangers of Confined Spaces
8/25/2010 5:00:00 PM
A chemical fire erupts deep in a hydroelectric plant tunnel, trapping five workers. read more

Download QuickTime Video

Related News

Moure-Ritter
CSB Chairperson Meets with Colorado Governor Bill Ritter Jr. to Discuss Open Recommendations to the State of Colorado
11/8/2010
U.S. Chemical Safety Board (CSB) Chairperson Rafael Moure-Eraso, Ph.D. today met with Colorado Governor Bill Ritter, Jr. to discuss CSB safety recommendations regarding power plants in the state.
read more
fire21
CSB Final Report on Xcel Energy Accident Finds Company and its Contractor Failed to Adequately Prepare for Hazardous Work Inside Confined Space of Hydroelectric Plant Tunnel; Xcel Had No Technically Qualified Responders on Duty
8/25/2010
Denver, Colorado, August 25, 2010—The tragic accident that took the lives of five industrial painting contractors deep inside an Xcel Energy hydroelectric plant tunnel in Georgetown, Colorado, was the result of several vital safety failures, the U.S. Chemical Safety Board (CSB) determined in a final investigation report issued today in Denver.
read more
title4x3
Letter from CSB Chairperson Moure-Eraso Admonishing Xcel Energy for Conduct During Fire Investigation
8/23/2010
Letter from CSB Chairperson Moure-Eraso Admonishing Xcel Energy for Conduct During Fire Investigation
read more
 
 
© csb.gov. All rights reserved