Sunday, June 24, 2018
Public safety

Two workers injured at Tampa Electric power plant

APOLLO BEACH — An industrial accident at Tampa Electric’s Big Bend Power Station sent two workers to the hospital Tuesday afternoon, the company said.

Tampa Electric officials provided few details Wednesday about what caused the accident, but said the injuries weren’t life threatening and one of the men had been released from Tampa General Hospital.

The workers, both contractors employed by the Zachry Group of Texas, had been tasked with fixing the cooling system attached to the Unit 3 boiler, Tampa Electric spokeswoman Cherie Jacobs said.

The boiler wasn’t on while they worked, Jacobs said.

The injuries come amid questions into Tampa Electric’s safety record. In June, an industrial accident at the Big Bend plant killed five workers and injured a sixth. In that case, the workers were doing maintenance on a large tank that stores molten coal ash, and the boiler was on.

[ READ THE INVESTIGATION: Tampa Electric knew the procedure was dangerous. It sent workers in anyway. ]

[ MORE: TECO accounts for nearly half of Florida power plant deaths, data shows ]

They were counting on the lava-like "slag" to stay trapped in the boiler, where it is created when coal burns. But it gushed out onto them, covering their bodies with third-degree burns.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration is investigating the incident.

A Tampa Bay Times investigation found that a near-identical accident happened at another Tampa Electric plant in 1997, and workers warned the company against doing slag-tank maintenance with the boiler running. The company followed the guidelines for more than a decade, but had recently stopped.

Turning off and restarting a coal-fired boiler costs hundreds of thousands of dollars, experts say.

Over the last two decades, more workers have died in Tampa Electric’s power plants than in plants run by any other Florida utility, the Times reported in July. No other utility has had more than three fatalities in the last two decades. Tampa Electric has had 10.

Union business manager Doug Bowden said the company is close to resolving a grievance he filed after the June accident seeking to permanently ban slag-tank work while the boiler is online. The union and the company are revising the language in the company’s safety agreement, he said Wednesday.

"This has got to stop," Bowden said. "Hopefully the language we’ve pretty much agreed to will help end work like this that is inherently unsafe."

Tampa Electric is also considering speeding up the grievance process and allowing an independent safety expert to help resolve conflicts, Bowden said.

The company declined to comment on those talks.

In August , U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor, D-Tampa, sent a letter urging OSHA to consider new rules aimed at preventing slag-tank accidents.

Contact Anastasia Dawson at [email protected] or (813) 226-3377. Follow @adawsonwrites. Contact Kathleen McGrory at [email protected] or (727) 893-8330. Follow @kmcgrory.

Comments
Police: St. Petersburg driver falls asleep at wheel after drinking, kills motorcyclist

Police: St. Petersburg driver falls asleep at wheel after drinking, kills motorcyclist

ST. PETERSBURG — A 22-year-old driver fell asleep at the wheel after drinking and ran a red light, hitting and killing a motorcyclist Saturday night, police said.Just before midnight, Michael P. Majchrowski, 48, was riding a 2016 BMW motorcycle eastb...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Suspect dead, 2 injured in St. Petersburg home invasion-turned-shooting

Suspect dead, 2 injured in St. Petersburg home invasion-turned-shooting

ST. PETERSBURG — Three people forced their way into a St. Petersburg house before dawn Sunday before gunfire broke out, killing a suspect and injuring two residents, police said.About 5:30 a.m., the people arrived at a house in Childs Park, on the 41...
Updated: 2 hours ago
Authorities find

Authorities find "inmate" who walked away from Bilirakis event

The 23-year-old man who authorities said walked away from a New Port Richey political event while under supervision of a treatment center on Saturday has been located.The Pasco County Sheriff’s Office described Nicholas Moore, 23, as both an "inmate"...
Published: 06/23/18
FHP: Wrong-way driver hit 100 miles per hour before sideswiping car

FHP: Wrong-way driver hit 100 miles per hour before sideswiping car

A Clearwater man who authorities said sideswiped a car while driving more than 100 miles per hour the wrong way on U.S. 41 was arrested Friday. Wendel Jamel James, 35, is charged with DUI with property damage, reckless driving and leaving the scene ...
Published: 06/23/18
Tampa boy, 14, shot on bike, police asking for help

Tampa boy, 14, shot on bike, police asking for help

TAMPA — Police want to know who shot 14-year-old De’Nico Thomas after a night of playing video games.Thomas was at a friend’s home Wednesday night and walking home when Tampa police said he was shot, resulting in life-threatening injuries.As he faces...
Published: 06/22/18
Clearwater police search for ‘Bic Bandit’ accused of stealing lighters

Clearwater police search for ‘Bic Bandit’ accused of stealing lighters

CLEARWATER — Police detectives are searching for a man coined the "Bic Bandit" based on reports that he’s stolen dozens of lighters from the same 7-Eleven.According to Clearwater police, the man has swiped the lighters four times in the last month, t...
Published: 06/22/18
FHP: One dead, three seriously injured in head-on Pasco crash

FHP: One dead, three seriously injured in head-on Pasco crash

DADE CITY — A Dade City man was killed and three others were seriously injured after a pickup truck and motorcycle crashed head-on Friday morning, according to the Florida Highway Patrol.Floyd Williamson, 72, of Lakeland, was driving northbound on U....
Published: 06/22/18
Body of missing Hernando park ranger found in Georgia; boyfriend being questioned

Body of missing Hernando park ranger found in Georgia; boyfriend being questioned

Georgia detectives on Friday recovered the body of Mitzi Marie Babb, a 43-year-old Hernando park ranger who had been missing since Tuesday.Her boyfriend, arrested Thursday on unrelated charges, has been called a person of interest in her disappearanc...
Published: 06/22/18
A Pasco driver was annoyed another driver was texting. So he pointed a firearm at her.

A Pasco driver was annoyed another driver was texting. So he pointed a firearm at her.

PORT RICHEY — A 41-year-old Uber driver was arrested Friday after police said he pointed a firearm at another driver because he was annoyed that she was texting and driving.Philip Macchio was driving near State Road 52 and U.S. 19 around 12:30 a.m. F...
Published: 06/22/18
Deputies: Cheerleading coach sent explicit images to 16-year-old

Deputies: Cheerleading coach sent explicit images to 16-year-old

A 28-year-old cheerleading coach faces charges for engaging in "inappropriate behavior" with a 16-year-old girl, according to the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office.Victor Martin Valenty faces 10 counts of traveling to meet a minor, distributing ob...
Published: 06/21/18
Updated: 06/22/18