A federal court ordered Tampa Electric Co. to serve 36 months of probation, pay a $500,000 fine and implement a safety plan following the company’s guilty plea for willfully violating an OSHA standard.
The U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida’s Aug. 18 order also requires the company to meet prior civil settlement payment obligations to the families of the deceased and injured workers.
Failed to perform job briefings
Tampa Electric pleaded guilty in May to OSHA violations in the June 2017 Big Bend Power Station explosion that killed five workers and severely burned another.
The incident occurred when “a blockage inside a coal-fired furnace broke free, spewing fiery molten slag into the work area.” Tampa Electric and two contractors, Gaffin Industrial Services and Brace Integrated Services Inc., employed the workers.
During its investigation into the explosion, OSHA found that slag tank-related incidents at the electrical power plant in 1997 and 2011 led to worker injuries. In response to these incidents, Tampa Electric modified its slag tank water blasting procedures and required a job briefing be performed to review the procedures before every job.
However, Tampa Electric failed to train employees and on-site contractors on the new procedures and the company pleaded guilty to willfully violating the related OSHA standard by failing to ensure the required briefings took place.
Tampa Electric will retain the services of FDR Safety LLC to audit its compliance plan, as part of the court order.
Civil settlement also reached
The company, as part of its plea agreement, also reached a settlement with the Department of Labor’s Office of the Solicitor in a related civil case.
OSHA issued citations to Tampa Electric for failing to follow energy control procedures while performing maintenance on equipment, and to Gaffin Industrial Services for failing to develop procedures to control hazardous energy.
The agency also cited both companies for failing to provide appropriate PPE. Fines for both companies totaled $160,972 with Tampa Electric paying $139,424 in OSHA fines as part of the settlement agreement.
No citations were issued to Brace Integrated Services.