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2 Companies Held Liable in Tank Death

Thursday, July 18, 2013

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South Carolina health and safety investigators have fined a paper mill and its contractor in the asphyxiation of a worker who was cleaning a tank in January.

The South Carolina Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation (LLR) has issued citations and more than $33,000 in fines against Resolute Forest Products and Industrial Piping Inc. (IPI) in the death of Samir Storey, 40.

Samir Storey

Samir Storey, 40, suffocated inside a seven-story tank he was cleaning.

Storey, an employee of Pineville, NC-based IPI, was cleaning a tank at Resolute's pulp and paper mill in Catawba, SC, in January when he was overcome by hydrogen sulfide vapors and died, authorities said.

Smoke and Alarms

Storey was one of three contract employees cleaning a seven-story-high tank about 6:45 p.m. Jan. 21 in the plant’s power generation area during a scheduled maintenance outage, according to LLR.

The tank, called a Stripper Column, was 6.5 feet in diameter and about 78.5 feet tall. Workers were tasked with disassembling and cleaning interior components (trays) of the steel tank.

Resolute Forest Products
Resolute Forest Products

Storey perished at Resolute Forest Products' paper and pulp mill in Catawba, SC.

Jermel Storey, Samir Storey’s cousin who also was working on the job, has said a “clear, cloudy smoke” entered the tank, triggering emergency alarms and trapping Samir Storey in the tank, the Charlotte Observer reported.

LLR documents said "a brown liquid entered the tank and vapor began flowing. Two of the employees were able to get out and the deceased was trapped approximately 14 feet down." After the first two workers escaped, the hoist assembly used to rescue them broke when Storey's lifeline became too tight, LLR said.

Neither company responded Wednesday (July 17) to a request for comment, but an LLR spokeswoman told the Observer that both had appealed the fines.

Resolute Citations

The citations against Resolute carry $17,850 in fines. Officials issued one serious citation with three violations and one other-than-serious citation with one violation.

Industrial Piping Inc.
Industrial Piping Inc.

Authorities say IPI neglected to train Storey and other workers in confined-space and LOTO safety.

The serious violations include lack of a permit-required confined-space program. LLR said the "Stripper Island" space where the three contract workers were working should have been isolated and ventilated, among other precautions. The agency also said the company had not kept canceled confined-space entry permits as required.

Other violations allege inspection of energy control procedures in the facility's "Stripper System" and failure to inform outside contract workers of the facility's lockout/tagout procedures.

IPI Citations

The one serious citation against IPI alleges four violations and carries a total penalty of $15,400.

Authorities say the company failed to provide medical evaluations for five employees before requiring them to wear half-mask tight-fitting respirators. The company is also accused of not training those employees in respirator use or in confined-space safety.

In addition, authorities said, IPI did not make sure that its employees were trained in the facility's energy control procedures. As a result, LLR said, 10 employees put a lock on the group lockout box at Resolute's Stripper Column.

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Tagged categories: Confined space; Enforcement; Fatalities; Maintenance programs; Pulp and Paper Plants; Respirators; Subcontractors; Tanks and vessels; Worker training

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