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Water well drilling firm cited after worker electrocution

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California regulators cited and fined a water well services company $16,895 over an electrocution accident that killed one worker and seriously injured another in June.

Santa Maria, California-based M&W Pumps Inc. was at fault for the accident, which occurred when a pump hoist made contact with a live overhead power line, according to a news release issued by the California Division of Occupational Safety and Health on Monday.

Cal/OSHA's investigation revealed that the team failed to maintain the minimum 10-foot distance requirement to prevent accidental contact with overhead lines carrying between 600-50,000 volts, according to the release.

“When employers send their workers near overhead power lines with hoists or other high equipment, they must take special precautions to keep their workers safe,” Cal/OSHA Chief Juliann Sum, said in a statement. “If M&W Pumps had put required safety measures in place, these workers' lives would not have been put at risk.”

The two workers were using the pump hoist to install an underground well on rural land east of Santa Maria, according to the agency. Cesar Montelongo-Pulido, a 21-year-old rig operator's assistant, was holding the hoist line while Daniel Moreno, a 25-year-old rig operator, manned the controls. The pump hoist made contact with a live 12,000-volt power line overhead during the operation, killing Mr. Montelongo-Pulido and severely injuring Mr. Moreno.

Cal/OSHA cited M&W for six violations, including one serious and one serious accident-related in nature. The company was found at fault for failing to follow high voltage safety orders, requiring that employers notify the high-voltage power line company if equipment will approach closer than 10 feet — a serious violation determined to contribute directly to the accident, according to the agency.

The other serious violation was issued for failing to evaluate hazards and implement necessary safeguards to minimize workers' exposure to harm, including the potential contact with overhead power lines, according to the release.

The agency also issued citations for the employer's failure to mark controls on the pump hoist to indicate the function or direction of motion and for failure to establish a program of preventative maintenance of the pump hoist.

A company spokesperson could not be immediately reached for comment.