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PG&E boosts training after deaths of 3 workers

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) -- Officials at Pacific Gas and Electric Co. are boosting the utility's training on safety procedures after the deaths of three workers in three years, the San Francisco Chronicle reported Sunday (http://bit.ly/VGqQMg).

The deaths prompted PG&E officials to revamp electrical workers' training, to make sure both that new employees are trained properly and veterans don't cut corners on safety procedures, the newspaper said.

After Maximiliano Martinez was electrocuted in March of 2010, Cal/OSHA found nine violations by PG&E of workplace safety laws, several of them serious, the Chronicle said.

Since the 26-year-old lineman was electrocuted, two more PG&E workers have died in similar accidents.

Gerald “Jerry” Biedinger, 57, was killed in August 2010 when his digging rig hit an electrical line in Tuolumne City.

Jon Christensen, 30, died in June 2011, in Tracy, as he separated crossed wires without wearing the proper rubber gloves, according to the Cal/OSHA report on the incident.

PG&E is appealing the $18,000 fine that Cal/OSHA is seeking in the Christensen case, while it has paid a $14,000 fine for violations related to Biedinger's death.

Following the deaths of the three workers, the company has “greatly increased training and our focus on safety, across the board,” PG&E spokesman Joe Molica said.

PG&E declined to comment on the specifics of Martinez's or Christensen's deaths while its appeals of the Cal/OSHA fines are pending.

In appealing the $176,000 fine for Martinez's death, however, the company argued that the lineman may not have followed PG&E policies, Cal/OSHA records show. The documents did not get into specifics.

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Information from: San Francisco Chronicle, http://www.sfgate.com

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