The National Electric Power Regulatory Authority (NEPRA) has penalized the Hyderabad Electric Supply Company (HESCO) for the second time this month for the deaths of people by electrocution caused by the company’s negligence and explosion of its pole mounted transformers (PMTs).
On Monday, NEPRA slapped a fine of Rs26 million on HESCO besides ordering it to pay Rs31.5m in compensation to the families of nine persons, who died from burns caused by the oil spill from an exploding PMT in Hyderabad’s Latifabad Unit 8 area on July 22.
Ten persons died and 12 were injured in the incident, which occurred on Eidul Azha. One of them was an employee of HESCO. The company recently paid Rs750,000 compensation against each death of a private citizen to four affected families while its employee’s death was compensated with Rs3.5m.
“The authority directs [the] licensee [HESCO] to give compensation to the bereaved families of the nine victims equal to the amount given to its’ employee,” reads the 17-page order issued by NEPRA on Monday. The company has been given 15 days to make both these payments.
Earlier, on October 1, the company was penalized with Rs31m in addition to a sum of Rs24.5m in compensation for some 12 deaths due to electrocution, which occurred in its jurisdiction from July, 2019, to October, 2020.
“The licensee has failed to discharge its statutory obligation to maintain safety standards and ensure that distribution facilities do not cause leakage of current,” the order noted. It pointed out that the company has contravened Section 21(2) (f) read with 35 of the NEPRA Act , Article 11 of the distribution license read with rule 4(g) of the NEPRA Performance Standards (Distribution) Rules, 2005, clause SR4 of Safety Requirements of Distribution Code and clauses 7.23,7.25, and 7.14.3 of Power Safety Code, 2021.
Read More: Pleas filed with NEPRA for power tariff hike
NEPRA’s investigation committee, which visited Hyderabad on July 25, in its report submitted on August 2 stated that the July 22 blast in the 200 KV PMT occurred due to design fault, system deterioration, protection failure, lack of safety measures and gross negligence in following safety SOPs by the licensee. “There were serious lapses on part of HESCO and HESCO failed to fulfill its obligations under the NEPRA act, rules, regulations, Distribution Code, Safety Code and its license.” HESCO was granted the distribution license by NEPRA on April 23, 2002.
According to the investigation report, a fault occurred in the 200KVA transformer near Akbari Masjid, Latifabad Unit 8, Hyderabad, (Tabish Wala transformer). The residents lodged telephonic complaints at a HESCO’s complaint centre and line staff reached the site at around 11pm on July 21. They isolated the said transformer without obtaining Permit To work (PTW) on the 11kv L8 feeder from the grid station and later shifted the PMT to a private workshop named Haji Nisar Workshop where its HT connections were found broken.
The same were joined and a cotton tape was wrapped around it with loose insulation paper. Subsequently, the PMT was re-installed on the double pole mounted substation (DPMS) but it was not energized. “In the evening on July 22 HESCO staff connected HT/LT jumpers of the transformers and this exercise was also carried out without obtaining PTW,” the report observed. “Before connecting the links one of the lineman called the grid staff to get short tripping on the feeder and as the feeder tripped at 4.33pm all the three links were connected. After 12 seconds of restoration of supply, a heavy blast occurred due to which the transformer exploded from its bottom plate.”
The report noted that the workshop lacked proper arrangements for the repair works. In the case of the exploded PMT, necessary tests like high voltage test, oil insulation test, winding insulation test, etc were not performed. “Even at the time of installation of the transformer there was a visible leak of oil from its bottom and before its energization the general public pointed it out as well.” The fuses used in the transformer (rora fuses) were not as per proper specifications and the fuses were not blown despite malfunction of the transformer.
NEPRA also held HESCO culpable because the transformer was overloaded due to lack of a proper load management system. The investigation report also highlights that HESCO lacks sufficient quantity of spare PMTs so that the supply can be restored through alternate arrangement and the damaged transformer is repaired from an authorized workshop and proper testing is also done before its re-installation.
The law allows a power distribution company like HESCO to approve even private workshops and there are three such workshops in Hyderabad, Jamshoro and Sadiqabad districts where the company sends the PMTs for repair. However, in the instant case the PMT was repaired by an unauthorised team of technicians.
NEPRA issued a show cause notice to HESCO and a hearing was conducted on September 7.
Published in The Express Tribune, October 12th, 2021.