A Florida company has been convicted in federal court of a felony charge related to a 2017 coal-fired power plant explosion that killed five workers.
Tampa Electric Co., which operates several facilities in Florida, was fined a maximum of $500,000 and sentenced to three years of probation after pleading guilty to willfully violating an occupational safety and health rule, the U.S. Department of Justice announced Friday.
Federal prosecutors said hardened waste, known as slag, had accumulated at the top and bottom of a tank beneath a large coal-fired furnace at the plant. Instead of shutting down the furnace, and with no official procedure in place to remove the slag, on June 29, 2017, TECO brought a contractor on site to use high-pressure water to try to blast the slag free. Five workers were killed when one of the slag piles broke loose and sprayed the area with molten material.
The company was also ordered to maintain a safety compliance plan. Federal law makes it a Class B misdemeanor to knowingly fail to comply with an OSHA safety standard, where the failure causes the death of at least one employee. A Class B misdemeanor is the only federal criminal charge that covers such workplace safety violations.