Report: Deadly June Accident at Tampa Electric Caused By Unsafe Procedures
On June 29th, an accident at a Tampa Electric power plant in Apollo Beach left 5 workers dead, gruesomely burned when lava-like slag gushed out from a tank above them. And according to an in-depth report by the Tampa Bay Times, their deaths were preventable, caused by unsafe procedures and careless management.
The accident occurred when the five workers went beneath the power plant’s boilers to fix a blockage. Above them was a tank filled with boiling hot slag, the molten ash that forms when coal burns. Though it was experiencing a blockage, the boiler was left on. As a result, the slag continued to build up above the workers. At some point, for reasons that are still unknown, the plug between the boiler and the tank gave way. This sent thousands of gallons of boiling slag down onto the workers.
Two of the workers were killed at the scene. The other three died in the hospital, suffering from extreme burns over the majority of their bodies. The last victim died on July 20th.
According to the Tampa Bay Times, a few negligent factors contributed to the deadly accident. For starters, they should have realized that sending workers below a boiling hot tank of slag was a bad idea. As one person quoted in the article says, “common sense tells you that when you’re dealing with molten ash well above 1,000 degrees in temperature, it’s dangerous.” A deadly melt can be triggered by something as simple as a change in the composition of coal. Because of their inherent dangers, slag tanks are rarely used. In fact, the ones at the plant in Apollo Beach are the only slag tanks used in Florida. Yet, the plant not only continued to use the slag tanks, but sent their workers into an obviously dangerous situation.
Not shutting off the boiler also greatly contributed to the accident. If the boiler had been shut off, there would have still been some slag above, albeit not as hot. However, shutting off the boiler would have meant lost profits, and would have jeopardized Tampa Electric’s ability to provide heating and air to thousands of Tampa Bay residents. Additionally, they would likely have experienced later blockages if they shut the boiler down, because the slag would dry inside. While their motives may make sense from an economic standpoint, they still put their workers at a very high risk.
Preventing Another Tragedy
Tampa Electric is currently undergoing a rigorous review of their safety protocol, and is also being investigated by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. While they are under investigation, no workers will be allowed to work on slag tanks with running boilers. The review is a good start. However, it’s disheartening that it took a deadly accident to point out the flaws. If unsafe practices did indeed lead to the deaths of these five men, there probably isn’t enough money in the world to compensate their loved ones for their grief. But at the very least, they can hopefully find some peace in justice in knowing that this kind of tragedy will never happen again at the Apollo Beach plant.
The attorneys at Perenich, Caulfield, Avril & Noyes represent those involved in car accidents, motorcycle accidents, bicycle accidents, pedestrian accidents, and other types of personal injury matters. Our firm is one of the oldest personal injury law firms in Tampa Bay. There are no attorneys’ fees or costs unless we prevail for you. Call our office 24 hours a day at 727-796-8282 or simply click here to schedule a free case consultation.