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Troubled Mill Fined $185K in Accident

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

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A Wisconsin pulp and paper mill where five people have died in recent years is now facing federal citations for an accident that severely burned a worker in March.

Packaging Corporation of America, a manufacturer of paper and cardboard boxes, was issued 30 citations and tentatively fined a total of $185,560 for conditions at its facility in Tomahawk, WI, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration announced Thursday (Sept. 5).

The March incident was the third significant accident at the mill in about five years.

Two subcontractor workers perished after an accident July 17, 2012, at the facility. Dustin Hale, 29, and Dennis Gougeon, 47, were covered in hot fly ash while unplugging an ash system at the plant. Hale and Gougeon worked for Inland Systems, a cleaning and maintenance company owned by Hale's father, John Hale. Gougeon died later that day; Hale, 11 days later.

In July 2008, a storage tank explosion at the mill killed three company employees—Randy Hoegger, 56; Donald Snyder, 46; and Steven Voermans, 52—and injured a fourth. In that case, OSHA found that the manager failed to conduct air monitoring inside the tank before the welding began.

'Another Preventable Misstep'

The March accident continued a pattern, an OSHA official said.

"Past explosions arising from similar hazards by this employer have led to tragic incidents," Robert Bonack, OSHA's area director in Appleton, WI, said in a press release.

"In this case, failing to prevent the ignition of flammable vapors and provide workers with appropriate personal protective equipment is another preventable misstep that has led to serious injuries."

Packaging Corporation of America
Photos: Packaging Corporation of America

In March, an employee was severely burned at a Wisconsin pulp and paper mill. OSHA's investigation after the incident resulted in 30 safety violations.

"Packaging Corporation of America must take its responsibility to identify the hazards that exits in its facilities seriously and take necessary precautions to prevent injuries and illnesses," Bonack said.

The Lake Forest, IL-based company employs 440 workers at the Tomahawk plant and has 8,700 employees at facilities throughout 30 states. Over the last five years, the company has been cited with 46 violations nationwide, six of which stemmed from the Tomahawk plant, according to OSHA.

A request for comment was not immediately returned on Monday (Sept. 9).

Serious Violations

In the new case, the company was cited for 17 serious violations, those that reflect substantial probability of death or serious injury from a hazard that the employer knew or should have known about.

Packaging Corp. of America
U.S. Chemical Safety Board

An explosion at the same Packaging Corporation of America facility in 2008 claimed the lives of three employees and prompted the U.S. Chemical Safety Board to issue a Safety Bulletin about the dangers of hot work.

The serious violations allege:

  • Tripping and fall hazards where there were gaps in the floor grates and an uncovered floor hole opening ($4,400);
  • Unprotected wall openings exposing fall hazards of five to 10 feet to a cement floor below ($5,500);
  • Missing railings and toeboards exposing fall hazards and exposure to falling tools or equipment from the floor above ($7,000);
  • Exposure to an unguarded pinch point at the pulley support of a manlift ($4,400);
  • Exposure to fall hazards while using the manlift and a missing red warning light to indicate the upper landing ($5,500);
  • Exposure to burns by flames or explosion from ignition of flammable vapors when relighting the boiler ($7,000);
  • Lack of personal protective equipment when relighting the boiler after an outage ($7,000);
  • Exposure to being struck by paper rolls falling off of a moving forklift ($5,500);
  • Exposure to amputation or laceration hazards from unguarded moving parts on equipment and saws ($5,500);
  • Unguarded saw blade exposing hand laceration or amputation hazards ($5,500);
  • Exposure to injuries from clothing or hair being entangled in unguarded equipment ($3,300);
  • Unguarded gears and chains on equipment exposing finger fracture, hand laceration and amputation hazards ($5,500);
  • Oxygen and acetylene cylinders stored near highly combustible material ($5,500);
  • Exposure to severe hand injuries while cleaning with high pressure hoses ($5,500);
  • Lack of guards on moving elevators to protect employees from being struck ($5,500);
  • Incompletely guarded shafts at the paper machine and unguarded nipping points on the paper machine rewinder, exposing entanglement hazards ($4,400); and
  • Burn and shock hazards from a strained cord ($4,000).

Repeat, Other Violations

Seven repeat violations were issued. The repeat violations, which OSHA issues if the employer was previously cited for the same or similar violation at any of its facilities in the last five years, included:

  • Uneven steps exposing fall hazards ($16,500);
  • Exposure to eye contact with damaging and corrosive chemicals without available emergency eyewash equipment ($27,500);
  • Laceration, fracture and crushing hazards from multiple unguarded machine parts ($27,500);
  • Exposure to being struck by flying pieces of the grinding wheel ($220);
  • Exposure to air embolism or eye hazards when using compressed air for cleaning purposes ($22,000);
  • Lack of labeling to disconnect motors, appliances and circuit breaker boxes ($220); and
  • Lack of labeling for each container with hazardous chemicals ($220).

The repeat violations were previously issued at the company's locations in Tomahawk, WI; Miami, FL; Liverpool, NY; Opelika, AL; Winter Haven, FL; and Milwaukee, WI.

OSHA issued six other-than-serious citations, which are those that have a direct relationship to job safety and health, but probaby would not cause death or serious physical harm. These violations included:

  • Lockers and cabinets that could tip over or with items on top that could fall off;
  • Load limits signs not posted in storage areas;
  • Lack of labeling for confined space air and mechanical hazards;
  • Lockout/tagout devices did not indicate the employee who applied the lock;
  • Nylon slings not marked with rated capacity; and
  • Circuit breaker boxes blocked by stored materials.

The company has 15 business days from receiving the citations to contest them or request an informal meeting.


Tagged categories: Fall protection; Fatalities; Health and safety; OSHA; Personal protective equipment; Pulp and Paper Plants

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