Willful Violation at Root of Fatal International Paper Explosion, OSHA Says

OSHA has cited International Paper Co.'s Vicksburg Mill in Vicksburg, Miss., for workplace safety violations following an investigation into the May explosion of a recovery boiler during a start-up where 23 employees were injured, one fatally. The company received one alleged willful and one serious violation, with proposed penalties totaling $77,000.

The willful violation is for failing to start the recovery boiler without adequate steam and not developing safe procedures to start up the recovery boiler when the primary power boiler was off-line. OSHA defines a willful violation as one committed with plain indifference to or intentional disregard for employee safety and health. The serious violation is 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. A serious violation is one that could cause death or serious physical harm to employees and the employer knew or should have known of the hazard.

"The fines reflect the company's failure to establish procedures for a re-start of the recovery boiler without the power boiler being on-line," said Clyde Payne, OSHA's area director in Jackson, Miss., the office that conducted the investigation. "Employees were exposed to a fire and explosion because the employer failed to develop written boiler set-up and operating procedures."

International Paper, headquartered in Memphis, Tenn., is a paper and packaging manufacturer operating throughout the world. About 300 employees work at the Vicksburg site. The company has 15 business days from receipt of the citations to comply, request an informal conference with the Jackson area director, or contest the citations and proposed penalties before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.

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