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Santa Rosa employee dies after being electrocuted

A Santa Rosa Water worker was electrocuted and died Wednesday afternoon while working on a piece of equipment that was still energized, state and city officials said.

The employee died at about 1 p.m. while working at the city’s wastewater treatment plant on Llano Road, Santa Rosa spokeswoman Adriane Mertens said in an email.

The city refused to identify the employee while withholding other details about the death, saying the workplace fatality was being investigated. The Sonoma County Coroner’s Office had not released the victim’s name as of Thursday night.

First responders were called to the Laguna Treatment Plant and reported the employee’s death to the California Division of Occupational Safety and Health, the state’s workplace safety agency, Mertens said.

The city followed up with their own call to state regulators about the fatality shortly after paramedics and police arrived at the scene, she added.

Cal/OSHA was told the employee had been doing work on an energized subpanel at the site before they were electrocuted, Cal/OSHA spokesman Lucas Brown said. A subpanel is used to add more circuit breakers in a separate space from the main breaker box.

Brown declined to identify the employee, saying the agency does not provide the names of people whose deaths or injuries they are investigating.

The city of Santa Rosa and the county Coroner’s Office were conducting separate investigations into the employee’s death, and for that reason, the city was limiting the amount of information it shared about the fatality, Mertens said.

Coworkers were alerted to the employee’s death, and mental health and grief resources were provided to them, Mertens said.

“At this time, our thoughts are with the employee’s family,” the city said in a statement Wednesday.

Cal/OSHA will investigate the employee’s death and at the end of their review investigators can recommend changes and issue citations if they find workplace safety violations, Brown said.

That was the case last last month, when Cal/OSHA announced fines of $32,000 against the Santa Rosa Police Department, citing the agency’s failure to safeguard its employees from the coronavirus pandemic in March and April.

Among the alleged violations, state regulators found the department did not report the COVID-19 death of Santa Rosa Police Detective Marylou Armer to Cal/OSHA within the appropriate time frame, as required by state law.

Armer was exposed at work to a colleague who had known symptoms, Cal/OSHA found. She was one of nine Santa Rosa officers infected with the virus in the first two months of the pandemic and was the first California peace officer known to have died from COVID-19.

State regulators said they began their investigation into the department two weeks after her March 31 death after learning about it in media reports.

On Tuesday, Santa Rosa officials submitted an appeal for all four penalties put forward by Cal/OSHA, Mertens said.

You can reach Staff Writer Nashelly Chavez at 707-521-5203 or nashelly.chavez@pressdemocrat.com. On Twitter @nashellytweets.

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