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OSHA News Release – Region 4
U.S. Department of Labor
Region 4 News Release: USDOL: 99-197
Thursday, Oct. 07, 1999
Contact: Larry Falck
PHONE: (813) 626-1177 x/3032
OSHA FINES TAMPA ELECTRIC $25,000 FOLLOWING FATAL EXPLOSION
The U.S. Labor Department's Occupational Safety and Health Administration today cited Tampa Electric Company following an explosion that killed three people and sent 40 others to local hospitals. Immediately upon being served the citations, Tampa Electric along with the plant's IBEW Local Union #108 signed an agreement to settle the citation. In the agreement, Tampa Electric agreed to pay the full penalty and correct all of the cited violations.
According to Larry Falck, OSHA's Tampa area director, two Tampa Electric employees and one contract worker died when hydrogen gas exploded in a generator which was undergoing spring maintenance procedures.
OSHA inspectors found that the hydrogen was released into the atmosphere by maintenance workers who were overhauling the generator. The workers had not been informed during a morning briefing that the hydrogen used to cool the generator during normal operations had not been purged as scheduled. Hydrogen is typically purged soon after the equipment is turned off and before disassembly begins, usually by the second or third day of the overhaul process which, on April 8, was in its 13th day.
As a result of the inspection, OSHA cited Tampa Electric for four serious violations involving maintenance procedures and proposed penalties totaling $25,200. The violations covered deficiencies in several areas, including "job briefing," lockout procedures which ensure that hazardous energy is controlled during maintenance operations, and personal lockout devices to be attached and removed by individual workers involved in the maintenance detail.
"When employees work with highly volatile substances like hydrogen, the employer must take every precaution to ensure their safety," said Falck. "We encourage the company to utilize this opportunity to create a more effective safety and health program. The company can save more that just OSHA penalties if they will find and fix hazards prior to an accident or inspection. Taking proactive measures on safety and health issues can reduce worker's compensation costs, improve employee morale, and ultimately increase company profits."
In addition to the citation items that were related to the explosion at the Gannon plant, OSHA also issued citations pertaining to a complaint inspection at Tampa Electric's Big Bend plant. The complaint was filed after the explosion at the Gannon plant. As a result of this inspection, OSHA issued three serious and one other-than-serious violation with proposed penalties of $4,875. The serious violations addressed hazards covering housekeeping, exposed chains and sprockets and an inadequate emergency response plan to address chemical spills. The other-than-serious violation covered the labeling of water pipes as "nonpotable" water.
OSHA defines a serious violation as one in which there is a substantial possibility that death or serious physical harm could result and that the employer knew or should have known of the hazard.
Tampa Electric Company has various electric generating facilities in the Tampa area where it employs over 3,000 workers.
Inspections of the Tampa Electric accident were conducted by OSHA's Tampa area office located at 5807 Breckenridge Parkway, Suite A, Tampa, Fla. 33610-4249; telephone: (813) 626-1177.
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