Thursday, tragedy struck the Tampa Electric Company power plant in Tampa, Fl, after two people were killed and four were seriously injured in an explosion. The accident occurred at one of TECO's largest facilities off of Big Bend Road in Appollo Beach. The Tampa Electric Company produces its electricity from burning coal, natural gas, and oil-fired capabilities.
While the direct cause of the accident is still unknown, reports believe that there was a malfunction during a routine maintenance on one of the slag machines. Slag is a molten by-product that is formed during the process of burning coal. Chunks of slag build up in specific machines where they are later cooled and reused for products for roofing and sandblasting. However, during the maintenance routine on Thursday involving several TECO employees and independent contractors, molten slag began pouring out of the machine and onto the workers below. One eyewitness described the slag "erupting out of the machine like lava from a volcano," and the molten slag covered the factory floor with several inches in height.
TECO has issued several press conferences expressing their condolences to the victims and their families and are investigating into the cause of this accident. However, the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, Local 108, recently issued a statement on their thoughts on the TECO explosion and how it was completely preventable:
"IBEW Local 108 expresses our sincere condolences to the families of those who have lost their lives in this tragic accident. The local hopes that those that were injured have a full and speedy recovery.This incident could have been avoided - period. It's time to listen to the employees. It's time to stop using contractors to do “routine maintenance” when the safety of this maintenance has been questioned by employees. It's time to stop putting profit before safety. It's time to truly put safety first.IBEW Local 108 has always been concerned and focused on employee safety. We are currently working with OSHA in their investigation, and we are determined to do all that we can to prevent this from happening again. This will take cooperation, understanding, and effort from all parties. It can't be one-sided."
TECO has had a long record of employees being injured and killed on the job; one incident including a separate explosion at another facility almost ten years ago to the date. Due to its record, there's no doubt that TECO is cutting corners when it comes to keeping their workers safe in order to save a few bucks. Afterall, TECO has been previously criticized for hiring outside contractors to work on machines that their own employees thought were dangerous. How many lives need to be lost before TECO suffers any serious consequences?