Flywheel Blast Brings Safety Fines

Friday, December 11, 2015 @ 04:12 PM gHale

Quantum Energy Storage Corporation is facing $58,025 fine after an explosion injured four workers this past summer, said officials at the California Division of Occupational Safety and Health (Cal/OSHA).

The incident occurred June 10 when an out-of-control 11,000-pound metal flywheel caused an explosion at the business in Poway, CA. Three employees received abrasions, and a fourth broke an ankle, according to Cal/OSHA.

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The force blew out a facility door and sent debris flying through the neighborhood. Some wreckage came crashing down through the roof of at least one nearby business.

Cal/OSHA discovered the 7-foot-wide flywheel sat in a concrete vault installed in the Poway warehouse, where employees would test the energy storage system. Before the incident, the flywheel was turning at 6,000 rotations per minute, but as they began powering the device down, it failed.

Investigators say the flywheel flew from its moorings and crashed into the vault’s guard rails. The building ended up declared unsafe to enter after the explosion damaged the roof, interior and walls.

Cal/OSHA cited Quantum Energy Storage for 16 violations of health and safety standards. The agency said the business did not enclose the vault or minimize hazards where employees worked, and computer stations were not a safe distance from the energy experiments.

Cal/OSHA classified five of the citations as “serious” and one as “serious accident related,” which means six of the hazardous condition could have caused death or serious harm.

“California employers must take precautions to protect employees from on-the-job hazards, including machinery operated in closed, confined spaces,” said Cal/OSHA Chief Juliann Sum in a release. “The workers harmed by this explosion could have died because the employer did not secure or cover the flywheel to prevent the release of mechanical energy.”