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Lawsuit settled in Wisconsin Electric Power explosion

By Marie Rohde

Workers burned in a 2009 explosion at the We Energies power plant in Oak Creek have received a $16 million settlement of a civil lawsuit, said their lawyer, Timothy Trecek.

The settlement was announced on the second anniversary of the explosion.

The workers were employed by ThyssenKrupp Safway Inc., Waukesha, and had been hired to build scaffolding inside a dust collector at the power plant. The next day, U.S. Fire Protection Inc. workers were going to repair the fire suppression system inside the dust collector.

The explosion occurred when coal dust ignited when it landed on a boiler light, according to Trecek.

Separate from the lawsuit, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration fined Safway $153,500 and We Energies $147,000 in connection with the incident.

ThyssenKrupp was cited for not providing the workers with fire-retardant clothing, not adequately training them and not flushing or ventilating coal dust from the work site. The company was also cited for letting crews use lights in wire cages that produced heat and ignited the coal dust.

According to OSHA, the company also should not have allowed the workers to use ordinary metal tools that could have generated sparks.

Trecek said OSHA regulations, as well as internal rules for both companies, required that coal dust be removed before employees entered the hopper but was not.

We Energies was cited for not informing ThyssenKrupp or Northbrook, Ill.-based U.S. Fire Protection, the general contractor, of the hazards of coal dust in the area.

ThyseenKrupp was not named in the lawsuit.

We Energies spokesman Brian Manthey confirmed the settlement was made by the utility, the general contractor and several insurance companies.

“We continue to believe that we did not cause and are not responsible for the accident and the plaintiffs’ injuries,” Manthey said. “The issue of responsibility will be determined by the defendants at a later date.”

Injured in the explosion were Alex Trevino, South Milwaukee; Jose Trevino, Cudahy; Benjamin Buffington, Milwaukee; Jeffrey Ross, Greenfield; Jacob Ciszewski, St. Francis; and Dale Glodoski and Ryan Bramow, both of Oak Creek.

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