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Norske Skog paper mill fined $1 million over workers' deaths
AUSTRALIA (From news reports) -- A NSW paper mill has been fined $1 million after two workers died and another was injured when they were overcome by hydrogen sulphide gas during routine maintenance.

Benjamin William Pascall and Lyndon Michael Quinlivan died after being exposed to the gas on May 24, 2018 at the Ettamogah mill, near Albury, and operated by Norske Skog Paper Mills (Australia) Limited.

Thomas Graham Johnson suffered hydrogen sulphide poisoning and hypoxic respiratory failure, was placed in an induced coma on life support and released from hospital two weeks later.

He has no memory of the incident, made a full recovery and returned to work.

Norske Skog, part of large global network of companies, based in Oslo, producing and supplying newspaper and magazine paper, was prosecuted by SafeWork NSW in the District Court.

It pleaded guilty to failing to comply with the NSW Work Health and Safety Act, thereby exposing the three workers to a risk of death or serious injury.

The maximum penalty available is $1.5 million.

Judge David Russell on Friday concluded the appropriate fine was $1,350,000 but reduced this by 25 per cent to reflect the early guilty plea.

As well as the $1,012,500 fine, he ordered the company to fund an educative animated video highlighting the incident, the risks and ways these could have been reduced.

The company also must produce other guidance material applicable to safe work in on or around confined spaces and for the management of risks associated with the biological generation of hydrogen sulphide

Mr Pascall worked for Norske Skog for four years as a stock proportioning operator, while Mr Quinlivan had been there for 15 years as a machine tender and a stock proportioning operator.

Norkse Skog admitted failing to take various measures to eliminate or minimise the risks including designating the space above the tank where the men were working as a confined space and providing personal hazardous gas monitors to workers.

The judge found the company's level of culpability was in the high range and "the injury, emotional harm, loss or damage caused by the offence was substantial".

He referred to six victim impact statements, five of which were read out in court by family members.

"The makers of these statements, and indeed all members of the families of Mr Pascall and Mr Quinlivan, have suffered a loss beyond imagination," he said.

"Each statement conveyed that the man who died was a loving, caring and selfless individual who will be missed forever.

"In summarising these Victim Impact Statements I cannot possibly convey the searing pain and loss experienced by each family member, which was expressed in court as the statements were read out."

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