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U.S. federal workplace safety regulators cited and issued $160,972 in proposed penalties against two companies after five employees died and one suffered serious burns in a 2017 incident at an electric power plant.
In June, the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration investigated the Big Bend River Station electrical power plant in Apollo Beach, Florida, following the fatalities and determined that the employees were burned when a blockage inside a coal-fired furnace broke free and spewed molten slag into the work area, the agency said Thursday in a statement.
OSHA cited Tampa, Florida-based energy provider Tampa Electric Co. for failing to follow energy control procedures while performing maintenance on equipment. The agency cited Riverview, Florida-based specialty cleaning firm Gaffin Industrial Services Inc. for failing to develop procedures to control hazardous energy. Both companies were also cited for failing to provide appropriate personal protective equipment to safeguard employees from burns.
“This tragedy demonstrates what can happen when hazards are not properly controlled,” Kurt Petermeyer, OSHA Atlanta regional administrator, said in the statement. “Employers must develop and implement necessary procedures to prevent incidents such as this from occurring.”
“This accident has forever changed our company; the families of those affected remain our priority,” Tampa Electric said in an emailed statement. “We respect OSHA’s process and have participated fully with their investigation as a valuable part of understanding what happened. However, we respectfully disagree with the suggestion we were willful or deliberately indifferent to the safety of workers. We cannot change what happened, but we are committed to learning from it to ensure nothing like this happens again. Since the incident, our team and the union have been working hard together to improve safety, including reviewing and improving work procedures, strengthening the safety language in our collective bargaining agreement and developing a long-term strategy to improve our safety culture. We are more focused on safety than ever before. As part of the process, we will meet with OSHA to discuss the citations and to determine our next steps.”
A Gaffin spokesperson could not be immediately reached for comment.
Three companies working on a multi-employer construction site in Anchorage, Alaska, were cited and fined a total of $882,000 for safety violations on a power plant expansion project.