Companies Fined for Big Bend Accident after Multiple Lives Lost and Serious Injury
In June of 2017, a total of five employees of Tampa Electric Co., Gaffin Industrial Services Inc. and Brace Integrated Services Inc. lost their lives due to serious injuries they incurred while on-the-job, and another suffered severe burns. After the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration investigated the Big Bend River Station electrical power plant in Apollo Beach, it was found that the employees had been burned because of a blockage that was inside a coal-fired furnace. When the blockage broke free, molten slag ejected out all over the work zone.
The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) fined Tampa Electric Co. and Gaffin Industrial Services Inc. a total of $160,972. Tampa Electric Co. was cited for neglecting to form processes to control hazardous energy. Tampa Electric Co. and Gaffin Industrial Services Inc. were cited for failing to supply employees with the necessary personal protective equipment (PPE) to ensure they would be protected from burns. Brace Integrated Services Inc. was not cited for anything.
Kurt Petermeyer, the OSHA Atlanta Regional Administrator, said, “This tragedy demonstrates what can happen when hazards are not properly controlled,” and added, “Employers must develop and implement necessary procedures to prevent incidents such as this from occurring.”
Tampa Electric Co. released the statement, “This accident has forever changed our company; the families of those affected remain our priority. 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.”
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