State investigators have issued more than $30,000 in fines to two companies after a man died earlier this year while working at a Catawba paper mill.
After its investigation, the Office of Occupational Safety and Health fined Resolute Forest Products, which owns the plant, $17,850. The plant’s contractor Industrial Piping of Pineville, NC., was fined $15,400.
Forty-year-old Samir Storey died from hydrogen sulfide asphyxiation in January while he and two other men were cleaning out a seven-story tall scrubber tank in the plant’s power generation area.
A report from OSHA notes that warm, brown liquid and vapor began flowing into the tank. The other two employees were able to escape once they noticed the liquid. An attendant tried to pull Storey out by a hoist, but the report notes the line became tight and caused the hoist assembly arm to break when it slammed against the opening of the tank.
Storey was trapped 14 feet below his co-workers and could not get out. The report says he died from the unsafe level of hydrogen sulfide that flowed into the tank.
Resolute was cited for three “serious” violations, and one “other.” Industrial Piping was cited for four “serious” violations. OSHA claimed the contractor did not properly train its employees to work in confined spaces or how to use respirators, among other violations.
Resolute was cited for not developing practices to allow safe entry into the tank, including “purging, inerting, flushing, or ventilating” the space. It also failed to notify the contractor about proper “lockout” procedures at the power area.
Resolute spokeswoman Debbie Johnston says the company has learned from the January incident. “If something as tragic as this happens, you must stop, step back, and learn from what happened,” she told Rock Hill station WRHI.
Both companies have appealed the fines and are requesting an informal hearing.
Andrew Kiel of Rock Hill station WRHI contributed to this report