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Burns Claim Life of 2nd Mill Worker

Monday, July 30, 2012

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A second subcontract worker has died from burns he suffered two weeks ago in a fly-ash accident at a Wisconsin paper mill.

 U.S. Chemical Safety Board

 U.S. Chemical Safety Board

This month’s two deaths at Packaging Corporation of America in Tomahawk, WI, came almost exactly four years after an outdoor tank exploded (pictured) at that mill, killing three workers.

Dustin Hale’s death was the fifth stemming from an accident at Packaging Corporation of America since 2008.

Hale, 29, succumbed Saturday afternoon (July 28) to the burns he suffered about 8:30 a.m. July 17 at PCA, in Tomahawk, WI. Authorities said Hale and Dennis Gougeon, 47, were covered in hot fly ash while unplugging an ash system at the plant.

Both men were transported by ambulance to Ministry Sacred Heart Hospital in Tomahawk, then airlifted to the University of Wisconsin Burn Unit in Madison, where Gougeon died about 5 p.m.

Hale was transferred the next day to a hospital in Minnesota.

Contractor’s Son

Hale and Gougeon worked for Inland Systems, a cleaning and maintenance company based in Ontonagon, MI. The company is owned by John Hale, Dustin's father.

Inland Systems has worked at the PCA plant numerous times over many years, a PCA official said earlier.

Neither company has commented on the accident; the Occupational Safety and Health Administration is investigating.

Fly ash is a fine powder residue recovered from gases created by the burning of coal; it is a common by-product of paper mills and other industrial sites that consume large amounts of electrical power. Many paper mills have their own power plants.

2008 Deaths

The accident July 17 came nearly four years to the day after a storage tank explosion at the same mill killed three PCA employees and injured a fourth.

In that case, the U.S. Chemical Safety Board determined that a welder had ignited hydrogen and methane gas in the headspace of the tank, sparking an explosion that killed Randy Hoegger, 56; Donald Snyder, 46; and Steven Voermans, 52.

OSHA found that the manager failed to conduct air monitoring inside the tank before the welding began—a cause of several recent fatal tank explosions.

The accident prompted the CSB to develop a video and other materials to warn of the dangers of “hot work.”

OSHA cited the mill for four serious and two other-than-serious violations, and the company paid a $22,500 fine.

Inland Systems has no record with OSHA.


Tagged categories: Accidents; Coal Combustion Residuals; Health and safety; OSHA; Tanks and vessels

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