OSHA Cites Power Plant when "Volcanic Molten Slag" Fatally Burned Five Employees

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In June of 2017, the Big Bend River Station Power Plant in Florida experienced something horrible.  It looked like molten lava flowing from a volcano.

Fire inspectors determined that five employees were fatally burned when a blockage inside a coal-fired furnace broke, allowing molten slag into the work area.  The slag can get to 1,000 degrees.

Five employees died from the incident, and a sixth was injured but survived the experience.

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The Day of the Power Plant Accident

On June 29, 2017 at 4:30pm. emergency responders were called to Big Ben River Station in Apollo Beach, FL.  They were told that workers in unit 2 had suffered severe burns.  At the scene, two people were declared dead while four other workers were taken to Tampa General Hospital.  Of those employee, three of the four died after being taken to the hospital.

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In June, a spokesman for the Hillsborough County Fire Rescue said that injuries were "very severe."

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Among the injured, one was an employee of the power plant - Michael McCort, a senior plant operator who worked for the plant for 35 years.  He was pronounced dead at the scene.  The other five injured people were contractors.

OSHA's Determined Cause for the Accident

OSHA investigated and recently determined that the plant failed to follow energy control procedures while performing maintenance on equipment.  Tampa Electric was cited as was Gaffin Industrial Services, the company that the contractors worked for.  Gaffin was cited for failing to provide appropriate personal protective equipment to safeguard employees from burns.

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The proposed penalties by OSHA total $160,972.

"This tragedy demonstrates what can happen when hazards are not properly controlled," said OSHA Atlanta Regional Administrator Kurt Petermeyer.  "Employers must develop and implement necessary procedures to prevent incidents such as this from occurring."