Ex-Halliburton firm responsible for 231 electrical shocks in two years
John Byrne
Published: Thursday January 29, 2009

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U.S. troops in Iraq suffered electrical shocks about every three days in a two-year period, according to an internal Defense Contract Management Agency report obtained by the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, a McClatchy newspaper -- or 231 incidents in all, from a single company, the former Halliburton subsidiary Kellogg, Brown & Root.

The 45-page document -- a high-level request for corrective action generated last fall -- found that Texas-based military contractor KBR Inc. failed to properly ground and bond its electrical systems, which contributed to soldiers "receiving shocks in KBR-maintained facilities on average once every three days since data was available in Sept. 2006," a release said.

KBR was spun off from Halliburton after a rash of negative press reports surrounding overbilling in 2007. Halliburton was run by former Vice President Dick Cheney prior to his taking office in the White House in 2001.

The Defense Contract Management Agency found that KBR "failed to meet basic requirements to identify life-threatening conditions on tanks, water pumps, electrical outlets and electrical panels."

It further added that government search results of a KBR-maintained database revealed that 231 electrical-shock incidents occurred over just two years -- in the period from September 2006 through July 31, 2008. This indicates that the shocks continued long after the much-publicized death of Sgt. Ryan Maseth, 24, who died in a heart attack after stepping into a shower maintained by KBR in 2008.

McClatchy's release, issued at 2:20 AM Thursday, follows.

Records show Maseth was electrocuted when he turned on the water that flowed through metal pipes. The Army Criminal Investigation Division recently determined Maseth's death was negligent homicide, rather than an accident as previously reported.

The Army named KBR and singled out two unidentified company supervisors for potential criminal liability. As yet, no charges have been filed.

Maseth is among at least 18 Americans -- including 16 soldiers and two contractors -- who have died of electrocution in Iraq since 2003. In October, Pfc. Justin Shults, 21, of Reading, was shocked and badly burned when he stepped onto metal steps attached to a shower trailer.

The Army said in a statement that the shock suffered by Shults was caused by an "improperly bonded electrical conduit pipe" on the ground.

The report indicates that KBR failed to correct and identify dozens of deficiencies in its contracted work for the government -- even after repeated inspections revealed hazards. It adds that government inspectors found "serious National Electric Code violations associated with bonding and grounding of conductors which presented an electrical shock and fire hazard" in various structures throughout the Iraq theater, including a building identified as LSF1.

Maseth's mother, Cheryl Harris of Allison Park, confirmed that her son lived in that building, which she said is also known as Legion Security Forces building 1. Harris, who has filed a wrongful-death lawsuit against KBR, declined to comment on the report on the advice of her attorney.

Heather Browne, director of corporate communications for KBR Inc., released a statement that the company is not providing comment on the report, which has not been released publicly.

"KBR remains committed to the safety and security of all employees and those the company serves. We have fully cooperated with the government when issues have been raised about work in Iraq and we will continue to do so," the statement read.

Meanwhile, the report obtained by the Tribune-Review cites numerous instances in which deficiencies in electrical systems were reported to the contractor and went uncorrected.

The report indicates that male and female troops received shocks in showers, latrine buildings and other locations from loose wires, improper grounding and improper bonding of electrical lines. It adds that inspections last summer revealed that KBR personnel did not follow standard operating procedures and that the company failed to identify poor performance among its workers.

Correction: Halliburton has not yet settled a case surrounding bribes allegedly paid to Nigeria. A proposed settlement is under consideration for $500 million.