OSHA fines IP after mill explosion

Published 2:09 pm Wednesday, November 5, 2008

International Paper has been fined $77,000 for violations at a Vicksburg mill following an explosion that killed one person and injured 17, the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration announced Monday.

The explosion rocked the paper mill May 3 during a reported restart of a boiler.

IP received one alleged willful violation from OSHA and one alleged serious violation.

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The willful violation was for failing to start the recovery boiler without adequate steam and not developing safe procedures to start up the boiler when the primary power boiler is off-line.

The serious violation was for failing to have written procedures to determine that an adequate amount of odorant was being added to the natural gas supply line coming into the power plant — an indicator that the highly volatile gas is present.

A willful violation is defined by OSHA as a violation committed with indifference to or disregard for employee safety and health.

A serious violation is defined as a violation that could cause death or serious physical harm to employees and the employer knew, or should have known, of the hazard.

Killed in the blast was 28-year-old Marcus Christopher Broome, who had a wife and twin 4-year-old daughters. The 17 injured were contract employees who have never been identified by IP or the contractor.

At least two lawsuits have been filed against IP by injured contract employees.

“We have cooperated closely with OSHA throughout their investigation and are committed to preventing anything like this from happening again,” the company said in a news release. “We are continuing to review the findings with OSHA, and we have 15 days to contest the findings if we choose to do so. Looking ahead, what’s most important is that our employees are back to work and the mill is back up and running following a safe start-up.”

About 400 people, including IP’s 306 regular employees, were at the mill when the explosion occurred.