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Florida Big Bend Power Station Explosion Tragically Kills 4 and Injures Several Houston-Based Contractors


Four workers were tragically killed as a result of a plant explosion at Tampa Electric’s Big Bend Power Station in Apollo Beach, Florida on Thursday, June 29, 2017.

The June 29th explosion occurred when contract workers at the coal-powered plant were attempting to clear a clogged tank containing molten slag. The slag – which can reach temperatures as high as 1,000 degrees – surged from the tank, falling on workers below.

Those killed include a senior plant manager employed by Tampa Electric, as well as a contract worker for Gaffin Industrial Services out of Riverview, Florida. The men were operating power washers when the explosion took place.

The Power Plant was Under Investigation by OSHA in Connection with Safety Hazards Discovered Just Weeks Earlier

In addition to numerous other incidents—including an explosion that severely burned and injured workers almost exactly 10 years earlier, on June 26, 1997, that have taken place at the plant—the plant was under investigation by the Federal Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) in connection with previous safety hazards that were discovered just weeks earlier, in May 2017.

The OSHA Investigation is still pending.

Many of the Injured Workers Employed by Houston-Based Brace Industrial Group

While one of the injured workers was a Gaffin contractor, the remaining workers were employed by Houston, Texas-based BRACE Industrial Group. All four were transferred to Tampa General Hospital, two via airlift.

It’s not entirely clear what transpired last Thursday, as no other workers were in the vicinity to witness the accident. However, Randy Barnett, a program manager at safety training company NTT, told the Tampa Bay Times that steam explosions can occur if slag is not properly controlled and comes into contact with much cooler water. Barnett added that such tragedies are almost always the result of either unsafe conditions or unsafe acts.

Two investigators from the Federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) arrived on Friday to investigate the Big Bend plant explosion. However, it could take six months or more for their probe to yield any answers.

On June 26, 1997, four Tampa Electric employees were injured after slag poured from a tank at the company’s Port Sutton plant. Two of those workers sustained first- and second-degree burns.

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