A Florida power company has been fined $500,000 after admitting to violating a safety rule which led to an explosion which killed five people.

The New York Times reports Tampa Electric Company pleaded guilty in May to “willfully” breaking an Occupational Safety and Health Administration(OSHA) rule which required workers to receive a pre-job briefing about the work they were to perform, including on potential hazards and the procedures involved.

As well as the fine, Judge Charlene Honeywell of the United States District Court for the Middle District of Florida, also placed the company on probation for three years and required it to comply with a safety compliance plan.

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The plea agreement shows the company had previously negotiated confidential civil settlements with the families of each person killed in the blast and several others harmed by it.

In a statement Todd Kim, an assistant attorney general with the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division, said Tampa Electric’s “willful violation had catastrophic consequences, including five workers dead and several more injured, underlining the importance of workplace safety standards.” ”

A spokeswoman for the company said: “We reaffirm our commitment to hold ourselves accountable for this tragedy, and to ensure our people are safe as part of the world-class safety culture all of us at Tampa Electric are working together to build.

The explosion happened on June 29, 2017.

Slag, which is a glass like product formed after the remains of burnt coal are mixed with water, had clogged a tank on a coal-fired furnace at the Big Bend Power Station in Apollo Beach, Florida, operated by the company.

However, instead of shutting down the furnace, Tampa Electric called a contractor to perform a water-blasting technique to clear the blockage.

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The written procedure for this process could not be found.

The explosion covered the workers in molten slag, which can reach temperatures far above 1,000 degrees.

Prosecutors said a witness described the blast as “like a volcano and a jet dragster. It was a fireball with molten slag coming out.”

After the incident, OSHA investigators interviewed nine operators working for the company that day – and found just one had ever seen the company’s procedure on water-blasting the tanks.

Prosecutors also said holding a pre-job briefing would have helped Tampa Electric realize that it was dealing with an uncommon blockage posing a “unique danger” and prompted the company to stop the work and shut down the unit.

According to prosecutors, holding a pre-job briefing would have helped the company realize that it was dealing with an uncommon blockage posing a “unique danger” and prompted the company to stop the work and shut down the unit.

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