Tennessee-Based Paper Company Fined in Wake of Deadly Plant Explosion

by mdp | January 7th, 2013

crutches_thumbThe Memphis, Tennessee-based Verso Paper Company, which closed its Sartell Paper mill following an explosion and fire that killed one worker and injured four others, has been fined $39,200 by the U.S. Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) after being cited for two workplace safety violations. The agency reportedly fined Verso for two serious violations that led to the fatal fire, which occurred in May 2012, and the paper company paid the $39,200 fine without contesting it. On-the-job accidents, particularly those that take place in manufacturing plants with potentially dangerous machinery, can result in devastating injury and tragic loss of life. Contact our experienced lawyers at Michael D. Ponce & Associates for legal help if you have been injured in a workplace accident anywhere in Tennessee.

Cause of the Fatal Paper Mill Explosion

An investigation conducted into the cause of the fatal paper mill fire found that an overheated air compressor ignited oil vapors in a compressor and in an air-receiving tank, which ruptured and exploded. OSHA cited Verso Paper Company on November 15, 2012, for two serious violations, both of which involved a paper machine that was undergoing maintenance on the day of the deadly explosion. The paper machine was reportedly shut down after a leak was found in a water line valve, and as part of the repair work, employees shut down a well pump that provided water to cool the paper plant’s compressors.

Verso Cited for OSHA Violations

The investigation ultimately found that Verso failed to ensure that proper “lockout/tagout procedures” were followed for the paper machine. Paper machines are large pieces of equipment that must be shut down in a proper order to control any potential hazardous energy that could result in injury or death for employees. This first violation addressed the procedure for shutting down the machine. The investigation also found that the company failed to conduct adequate inspections of the “energy control procedures” to ensure that requirements were being followed when the machine was shut down.

Contact Our Attorneys for Legal Help

Although the report compiled by OSHA indicates that employees turned the well pump back on at some point, oil temperatures inside the air compressors reached dangerous levels in the minutes before the devastating explosion. If you have suffered injuries in a serious accident on the job in Tennessee, or if you lost a loved one in such an accident, contact our workers’ compensation attorneys at Michael D. Ponce & Associates as soon as possible. Our Nashville-based law firm has extensive experience protecting the rights of injured workers throughout TN, and will work hard to help you pursue the financial compensation you deserve for your work-related injuries.