- A federal court has ordered Tampa Electric to pay a $500,000 fine in connection with a 2017 accident that resulted in five fatalities at the Big Bend River Station coal-fired power plant located in Apollo Beach, Florida.
- According to the U.S. Department of Labor, an investigation by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration determined that a blockage within a coal-fired furnace spewed molten slag into the work area when it was removed. Five workers died and a sixth sustained serious burns in the incident.
- The U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida ordered Tampa Electric to serve 36 months probation and implement a safety compliance plan designed by an independent third-party auditor, in addition to the fine.
Proceedings related to a fatal 2017 accident at Big Bend River Station are drawing to a close after a federal court issued its ruling in the case last week.
Tampa Electric pleaded guilty to willfully violating an OSHA standard for employee training, an action investigators determined contributed to the incident. According to the Department of Labor, investigators found that after two similar accidents at the plant in 1997 and 2011, Tampa Electric modified its slag tank water blasting procedures. However, OSHA determined that the company failed to train employees or and on-site contractors on the new procedures, according to the Department of Labor.
In addition to the $500,000 fine and the 36-month probation, Tampa Electric Co. will be required to make restitution payments to the families of the workers killed or injured by the incident. The company has already reached private settlements with the victims, according to the Department of Labor.
Tampa Electric has already paid $139,424 in penalties to OSHA for failing to follow energy control procedures while performing maintenance on equipment as part of a settlement agreement.
“We reaffirm our commitment to hold ourselves accountable for this tragedy, and to ensure our people are safe as part of the world-class safety culture all of us at Tampa Electric are working together to build,” Archie Collins, president and CEO of Tampa Electric, said in a statement to Utility Dive.
The company noted that it hit a significant milestone — 365 days without an employee missing work due to an injury — on Aug. 9, a little over a week before the court ruling. The company has already identified an auditor to begin the process of developing a safety compliance plan, according to the Department of Labor.
OSHA also fined a contractor, Gaffin Industrial Services for failing to develop safety procedures. A third contractor with staff present during the incident, Brace Integrated Services, was not cited by OSHA.