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First Energy is sued for power plant workers' injuries and deaths

The widows of two power plant workers and their two injured colleagues joined together is filing a lawsuit against the regional electricity provider First Energy (FE) on Thursday, Nov. 16. The suit, which was filed in the federal district courthouse of Western Pennsylvania, accuses FE's administrators of both negligence and carelessness.

In the filing, the attorneys for the plaintiff describe how the incident occurred overnight on Aug. 29 just after 11:30 p.m. That evening, workers were dispatched to a confined area to perform what's been described as routine maintenance on a pipe. It was believed to have contained water.

When the workers removed the elbow joint, they quickly determined that the pipe had not been properly labeled. They found that it contained a toxic type of sewer gas, known as hydrogen sulfide, along with coal sludge instead.

One of the four men that had been working in the confined area climbed out of it very soon after the elbow joint had become dislodged because a circuit breaker had been tripped. It was as the man reached the top of the manhole that he heard screams from below ground. Within moments, two of the man's colleagues had climbed the ladder trying to escape the toxic fumes. They both lost consciousness as they were nearing the exit.

As for the other two workers, neither were able to escape the hole. It's believed that both either drowned in the coal sludge or that they inhaled too much of the toxic gas. Both men left behind wives and two young children each.

In the filing, the plaintiffs contend that FE violated several safety protocols that made it possible for the incident to occur. First, they didn't designate the pipe as carrying a potentially hazardous material. Second, FE reportedly neglected to equip the confined space with a necessary air ventilation system to evacuate toxic fumes from the area. They also didn't install a shut off valve that could be utilized in emergencies such as this.

Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) officials have noted that their investigation into this Bruce Mansfield Power Plant incident could take as long as six months to complete.

If you've been seriously injured in an unsafe workplace, then a Dauphin workers' compensation attorney may advise of your right to compensation for your lost wages as well as current and future medical bills.

Source: Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, "Injured workers, widows sue FirstEnergy over fatal power plant incident," Daniel Moore, Nov. 17, 2017

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