Dam mishap raises safety concerns

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Bobcat fell into Bradner

By Martin Salazar

A city of Las Vegas employee suffered bumps and bruises earlier this month when the Bobcat he was in flipped on its side into Bradner Reservoir, leaving him submerged in the water.

The unidentified employee managed to free himself from the Bobcat and get out of the water, but the incident is once again raising questions about  safety protocols, prompting city officials to bring in a consulting firm to conduct safety audits. Those audits are aimed at determining whether city departments are following safety protocols implemented after two workers died when the trench they were in collapsed in May 2011.

“In general, without going into detail because there’s still contemplated action that’s occurring, I do believe that there has been a detection of some breach of our safety policy and Mr. (Ken) Garcia, the director, has to analyze that and make reasonable recommendations for (how to get) employees to change their behavior and to mitigate the potential breach,” City Manager Timothy Dodge said Wednesday.

Garcia, the utilities director, said that on May 5, the day of the incident, water plant staff removed a SolarBee from Bradner Reservoir. A SolarBee is a piece of equipment that recirculates water; it was in the middle of the reservoir. City workers succeeded in pulling the SolarBee out and placing it off to the side of the reservoir that morning.

Garcia said that after lunch, one of the employees returned to the site by himself, got into the Bobcat and started doing more work around the reservoir. Because the city had been pulling water from Bradner for customer use, the edges of the reservoir are muddy.

The Bobcat got stuck in the mud. Garcia said another city employee went there and tried to pull the Bobcat out using a city four-wheel drive truck and a chain.

As the Bobcat was being pulled out, it flipped on its side, and the employee in the Bobcat was either partially or totally submerged in the water, Garcia said.

He added that the worker managed to free himself from the Bobcat and get out of the water. He was taken to Alta Vista Regional Hospital where he was treated for bumps and bruises, Garcia said.

The accident was reported to city safety staff, and the worker was placed on administrative leave for a few days to ensure that he recovered from the accident.

The Bobcat was removed from Bradner, and while city workers saw no obvious signs that fluids from the Bobcat had spilled into the reservoir, the water will be tested to ensure there are no contaminants before the city begins using water from it again, Garcia said.

City officials are not disclosing the names of the city employees involved, calling it a personnel matter.

“There’s an investigation that has pretty much been completed, Garcia said.

Dodge said that in addition to bringing in an outside firm to conduct safety audits, the city is also reviewing its safety processes citywide.

“One of the biggest things that I stress to employees, if you’re doing something that’s not routine operation, stand down from doing it until you completely analyze the process from a safety perspective,” Dodge said. He added that the city can have all the safety policies in the world, but it won’t help unless those policies are being followed.

He said employees are supposed to conduct a job hazard analysis before doing anything that isn’t routine.

Garcia said the SolarBee was pulled out of Bradner in anticipation of the reservoir’s  being drained so that it can be enlarged.