From tragic accidents to silly stories, tough quizzes to controversial projects, PaintSquare News will take a look back at the coatings industry of 2011 with two special issues next week.
U.S. Chemical Safety Board
|The aftermath of the death of five painters at Xcel Energy’s hydroelectric plant in Colorado was the most followed story of the year.|
On Dec. 29 and Dec. 30, the “Best of PaintSquare News” will provide a two-day trip through the year’s top news events, most-read JPCL features, toughest quizzes, hottest polls, best jokes and most-talked-about stories.
The special issues remind us that this has been a tumultuous year of highs and lows across our industry. By looking back, we aim to remember, to learn and, ultimately, to look ahead more effectively.
Top Stories of 2011
Tragedy always draws widespread concern and discussion—and, in an industry as dangerous as industrial coatings, tragedy became a common theme in the news stories of the year.
Falls from terrible heights, confined-space hazards, respiratory lapses, chemical exposures, fires, explosions and other dangers continue to plague the industry, often with deadly consequences.
These reports drew the most readers and comments in 2011.
|DeFelsko founder Frank Koch, who died in August, is remembered for his “bright mind, outgoing personality, dedication and tireless work ethic.”|
The saddest, and most followed, story of the year was the unfolding legal aftermath of the deaths of five painters from RPI Coatings Inc., who perished of smoke inhalation far underground at Xcel Energy’s hydroelectric plant in October 2007.
The disaster had major repercussions for both RPI and Xcel, from the opening of Xcel’s criminal trial, to Xcel’s acquittal, followed by news of RPI’s likely plea and, finally, the company president’s appearance in court.
PPG’s travails with former managing director Xun Wang, implicated in the unlicensed sale of coatings for use in a Pakistani nuclear reactor, drew interest at every stage: from her arrest and indictment to her guilty plea.
DuPont Powder Coatings fought its own corporate espionage case involving a former chemist accused of stealing trade secrets.
The Good, the Bad and the Techno
Advances in industry technology also continued to captivate in 2011, with dazzling developments in materials and processes worldwide.
|ASA president Timmy McLaughlin passed away unexpectedly in June after an accident.|
We heard about new coating removal robots, a new steel that may not need coating, a “force field” coating that resists blasts, a new “ice-phobic coating, a “magic bullet” for marine corrosion, a coating that self-heals without a catalyst, a corrosion-detecting coating, and “super black” coatings by NASA and others.
Corporate fortunes rose and fell, with PPG and Jotun enjoying a strong year, while AkzoNobel and Valspar saw some struggles. Sherwin-Williams, PPG, Dow, DuPont and Vista Paints all settled federal environmental cases.
There were quirky stories, too: of fake paint in China, a stolen steel bridge in Pennsylvania, and a big fight against non-existent regulations.
People: Hail and Farewell
Of course, the industry is all about its people, and 2011 brought reasons to celebrate and mourn on this front as well.
On the celebration front, it was hats off to the venerable Ben Fultz of Bechtel, who will be next in line to head SSPC: the Society for Protective Coatings.
|PPG dealt with the fallout from a former director who admitted unlawfully shipping protective coatings for Pakistan’s Chashma 2 nuclear power plant.|
On the other hand, the industry marked the untimely loss of American Subcontractors Association president Timmy McLaughlin, JAD Equipment Co. owner James “Jamie” Dagan, and Michael Sweeney of Sto Corp. We also said goodbye to DeFelsko founder Frank Koch.
The industry’s biggest players all announced changes at the top, with a new CEO set for No. 1 AkzoNobel, as well as changes at PPG, Valspar, BASF Coatings, and many other leading companies.
Parade of Products
New product development is always of interest across the industry, and this year was no exception. Among the year’s new products of greatest reader interest:
• Blast One Internationals’ new Speedblast abrasive;
• Sherwin-Williams’ FasTop Topcoat;
• Jotun’s refund offer to back its marine product claims; and
• Jetstream Europe’s new “go anywhere” Magnetic Crawler.
News about products also drew widespread attention, with Sherwin-Williams taking a slap over its claims and an alert involving JLG lifts.
We hope you enjoy next week’s look back at the year.
Aside from these special issues, PaintSquare News will be on vacation through Jan. 2. Regular publication will resume Jan. 3.
PaintSquare News wishes to thank all of our readers and advertisers for a rewarding and successful year. We share your goal of creating an industry that is safe, well-informed, successful and second to none.
Our sincerest wishes to all for a peaceful holiday season and a healthy, happy 2012.