Independent investigation into 2018 Rock Island fatality reveals engineering root cause

The Board of Commissioners for Chelan County PUD has reviewed an independent investigation into the factors that led to the death of PUD employee Eddie Bromiley in June 2018.

The incident involved a heavy steel beam falling during the lifting of a spillway gate. The investigation included multiple site visits, 25 interviews with staff, and review of historical records, reports, design drawings and internal communications.

The investigation – conducted by the Lane Powell law firm of Seattle — concluded that, for the most part, latent design weakness from the 1990s was the engineering root cause. At least one employee recalls there being a recognition of the design weakness in the 1990s. But due to the lack of procedures for documenting safety concerns in the 1990s, none of the PUD employees associated with the spillway operation at the time of the incident being aware of the design issue or its risk, according to a press release.

The investigator’s report identifies three engineering recommendations and two human and organizational performance improvement recommendations. These cover areas such as changes to dam spillway design, new procedures for crane lifts and assessment of employees’ awareness of safety reporting systems. Chelan County PUD says it is committed to fully implementing all five recommendations.

The report identifies 11 additional considerations. Some of those items already were addressed, and the PUD will fully evaluate the remainder for action, said General Manager Steve Wright.

“Since June, we have been keenly focused on supporting an investigation that needed to be thorough, comprehensive, and was completely candid with its advice and recommendations,” Wright said. “We are committed to using that information to make the PUD a safer work environment.”

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