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KBR prefers to defer electrical inspections in Iraq

Task force re-inspecting U.S. facilities in Iraq for faulty wiring

By Lisa Novak, Stars and Stripes
Mideast edition, Sunday, November 1, 2009

Courtesy of the Department of Defense Spc. Marcus O. Nolasco was electrocuted while showering at this facility on Forward Operating Base Summerall, Beiji, Iraq, on May 18, 2004. The Defense Department has created a task force to inspect all facilities in Iraq after more than a dozen U.S. troops have been electrocuted. Included in the list are thousands of facilities whose electrical work was completed by defense contractor KBR.

Courtesy of the Department of Defense Spc. Marcus O. Nolasco was electrocuted while showering at this facility on Forward Operating Base Summerall, Beiji, Iraq, on May 18, 2004. The Defense Department has created a task force to inspect all facilities in Iraq after more than a dozen U.S. troops have been electrocuted. Included in the list are thousands of facilities whose electrical work was completed by defense contractor KBR.

An Army task force re-inspecting thousands of potentially unsafe U.S. facilities in Iraq for faulty electrical wiring says a contractor previously ordered to conduct inspections of its own work placed 5,600 facilities on a “deferred” list — meaning they were low priority or there were no plans to inspect them.

Officials with the Defense Department’s 135-member Task Force SAFE said many of the buildings on KBR’s deferred list were still being used by soldiers. As a result, the task force moved these facilities to the top of its inspection list, according to a Sept. 8 internal memo.

Sixteen U.S. troops and two contractors were electrocuted — and hundreds more incurred shock-related injuries — in Iraq over a span of four years, prompting the Defense Department to create the task force last year to physically inspect every military facility in the country, the majority of which were provided by KBR. Additionally, the Defense Contract Management Agency directed KBR to inspect all 75,000 of its facilities, a process that began last February.

But Multi-National Forces–Iraq let KBR either postpone or abandon site inspections because of confusion surrounding the status of the thousands of facilities, a military official said.

The Army said the deferred list is intended for facilities not likely to be used, that have been abandoned, are about to be turned over to the Iraqi government or are located in sensitive areas.

Brig. Gen. Kurt Stein, the senior logistics officer in Iraq and who serves as the director for Task Force SAFE, said there initially was confusion over these deferred facilities.

“What I wanted to know upfront is ‘Have you been in this facility to ensure that there’s no life, health, safety issues in them?’?” Stein said. “That’s why it got put up to the top because people were concerned that ‘Hey, we better double-check or we better verify.’?”

But “once KBR identified that they were not going to validate these facilities, they were made the [task force’s] top priority,” Glen MacDonald, program manager for Task Force SAFE, wrote in an e-mail to Stars and Stripes.

When first reached about the issue three weeks ago, KBR spokeswoman Heather Browne denied any knowledge of a “deferred” list.

Two weeks later — after being provided a copy of the list by Stars and Stripes — Browne acknowledged only 120 facilities as deferred, stating those facilities required special access to complete inspections. She said the list, titled “Deferred Un-inspected,” includes deferred and nondeferred facilities and that KBR is inspecting all of its facilities. She would not, however, say when that decision was made.

Requests to talk with other KBR officials were denied.

There are 3,350 KBR deferred facilities that had not been inspected for electrical safety as of Oct. 31, according to Navy Capt. Russ Hughes, a Task Force SAFE spokesman. While KBR is in the process of inspecting 150 of those facilities, the Defense Contract Management Agency is considering the status of the remaining deferred facilities. If the DCMA decides those facilities will be abandoned, they won’t be inspected, he said.

The task force, which was created in August 2008, is working from “sunup to sundown” to inspect all facilities in Iraq, Stein said. Since last year, the team has inspected around 107,000 facilities — the majority of them wired by KBR — and found 22,000 major deficiencies. Around 19,000 of them have been fixed, he said.

While electrical hazards still exist, Stein said much has improved.

“When I first got here a year ago, I was afraid to touch any socket, I was afraid to turn my lights on, I was afraid to take a shower. I made sure I didn’t touch any walls or anything,” Stein said.

Initially, the task force focused on housing and shower units, Stein said.

“Now we’re into motor pools, fixed facilities. … If the bonding and grounding is not right, we’re fixing all that.”

Bonding creates a safe pathway for electricity to flow between components, while grounding ensures that pathway leads to the ground to absorb any current.

The task force is expected to complete inspections on all facilities in Iraq by the end of January. (click HERE for original article)

I’d like to know if Adam Hermanson’s building where he was electrocuted in his shower and died on September 1, 2oo9 was on that deferred list.

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  1. Comment by sports:

    SBH Article..Interesting… Thomas Koch? Electrician Thomas Koch, now @ FLuor Intercontinental? Was at the Embassy in Kazakhstan or one of those Stan’s?
    I was with SBH, never got any letter, email from Bruce D. about SSC#’s.&>+@*%#^&!LOL


    Hey! I remember seeing that guy in the BOAT…(FL)…(not to be confused with the MAN in the BOAT) Well, I saw the BOAT at least. It was on top of a building on the left side of the road before you go across the 14Th of July Bridge. I remember thinking how cool it would be water skiing down the Tigris, but would need a Helio to get it off and in, then sneak it back up.

    I got sent home mid AUG after step/jump/fall from a russian PooPoo craft at an FOB. Then to Hosp.,home, my home Dr., x ray, MRI, Orthopedic Surgeon… says partial to total knee replacement. AIG says they ain’t paying chit, even after the DOL “recommended” them to fix me and pay me. So I’m out 2 1/2 mo. pay, thus far, can’t work, barely walk, and the COBRA CIGNA I’m paying for…..try to get it fixed on my own Insurance…as soon as you check the box “Is this visit a result of a work related injury” YesX, they kick you and your Expat Insurance Card to the curb. (Bitterness)

    FYI: So AFTER 3 mo. I’ll have an “Informal” phone conference with my mouthpiece, their same and the DOL Claims Examiner. WOW! where the heck is TOTO?


    What really ticks me off is that I DID NOT get invited to the White House Halloween Party tonite!!!!!

    Be sure to CYA brothers and sisters, no one else will!


    Ms Sparky’s Response:
    Sorry to hear you are having such a problem with AIG. I wish I could say that wasn’t normal. But AIG could very possibly be more criminal that KBR.

  2. Comment by Ms Sparky:

    That change in priorities that moved the buildings on the deferred list to pri-1 came 7 days after Adam Hermanson died. Was Adam’s building on the deferred list? Hmmmm

  3. Comment by chrisatnve:

    I was a team leader for KBR @ JBB Balad. At the end of August the word for the day was defer defer defer, we were told to defer any building that had issues with tampering, open splices in walls or ceilings, panels that needed to be replaced, basically anything that could not be repaired in 8 man hours was a write up for deferrals. We had Joe Tedesco come up from Baghdad, A senior management guy named Steve, also from Baghdad, and a host of other senior management team members. At one point we were told we had to inspect 88 hard stands in 4 days to see if they qualified for deferral. We of course said there was no way we could accomplish this. This was all done of course so that KBR could make the Sept 12 deadline for G&B, which they didn’t make anyway. And just think all the deferrals will be written up as P-2’s and KBR will probably get the repair work. I wish I could screw everything up the first time so I could get paid again and again to fix it, this of course is the KBR way. And it continues as we speak.

    Ms Sparky’s Response:
    Thanks for the great comment. I had heard this “defer defer defer” was going on and have reported it according. I am shooting you an email to talk more about this.

    • Comment by Happy to be home:

      I conducted a meeting in the large conference room at JBB immediately after the HQ guys (including Mayo) and other high ups from all camps (including some PM’s and DPM’s) finished an electrical conference after the level III CAR in the fall of 2008. I saw that all of the power strips in that room were daisy chained together for their laptops. They are hypocrites that just don’t get it. In my time in Iraq, I noted that the intelligent and talented people could seldom stick it out. The inept that moved up early on (being promoted for returning from R&R) stay and cash their checks… This leads to shotty work and people with power trips because they have never had a role in management before. I am grateful for the opportunity that this job gave me and my family, but as noted above, I am happy to be home and will never work LOGCAP again. This kind of “leadership” will be found at all the large contracting companies, especially since most of the management will be either KBR rejects or transfers.

  4. Comment by Frankiedee:

    Soo much hype!! I was there, it should be about inspecting facilities to make them safe, safe being the key word.
    Iraq is a hostile and challenging work envirnment, installations were done to “make it happen”. An inspector cannot go around as if he were in the states and look at miniscual issues in the code book and write flashes as to tie up work crews, which cannot get to SERIOUS issues such as NO grounding or a sizzling panel or a deadly open conductor ready to easily kill anyone.
    This is my whole point, the most number of facilities in theatre must be inspected for the most dangerous code issues as soon as possible!! Not spending days on end inspecting facilities to complete the report quotta for the day. I will put my reputation on the line in saying that I can walk into a facility and in a short period of time determine if its safe or not….you guys out there know Im right.
    When I joined TF SAFE thats what I thought it was all about, and thats why I am angry!

  5. Comment by Who is it?:

    As an electrician over there I saw a lot of shade tree wiring, some by the military, some by others…
    After correcting issues to make a facility safe, there was on occasion a report of shock and of course my role in repairs were questioned. It was later found during investigation that someone had come in after my repairs to alter things (to make it more convenient, add a circuit, etc).
    We as electricians can only idiot proof so much and the that is the reason the military has procedures for everything. To allow for the idiots that think they can do better than the professionals.

  6. Comment by Frankiedee:

    I agree , I saw a lot of soldier wiring or wired by some Iraqi guy after work.
    The impression I got was KBR was overwelmed and couldnt get to it, so people took things into their own hands. Understandable when a breaker keeps tripping for your a/c and its 120 degrees or you need a welder to run so you can build up some armour on your vehicle….all we could do is recommend it was wired correctly ASAP.
    Sometimes its hard to read the NEC codebook to the Mayor of a FOB in between mortar attacks.
    Realistic is the key word here.

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