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PCA contesting penalties in DeRidder explosion that killed 3 and injured 7

DERIDDER, Louisiana (From news reports) -- Packaging Corporation of America is contesting the tens of thousands of dollars in penalties OSHA lodged against it for a February tank explosion that killed three people and injured seven.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration penalized PCA with five "serious" safety violations and fines totaling $63,375 in the fatal accident, according to the agency's inspection database.

Three employees were climbing down from an elevated pipe rack when a tank exploded, "striking the employees and tossing their bodies 200 yards from the explosion," according to OSHA's narrative of the Feb. 8 incident. It happened during a shutdown of the facility, where corrugated boxes are produced.

OSHA noted PCA allowed workers to perform work on a gas system while methanol, turpentine and flammable vapors were present, according to its description of PCA's violations:

OSH ACT of 1970 Section (5)(a)(1): The employer did not furnish employment and a place of employment which were free from recognized hazards that were causing or likely to cause death or serious physical harm to employees in that employees were exposed to fire and explosion hazards. On or about February 8, 2017 in the Pulp Mill at the Foul Condensate Tank (FCT), the employer allowed employees to perform shutdown (maintenance) work on all or part of the non-condensable gas (NCG) system where there was the presence of methanol and turpentine and flammable vapors, the employer did not isolate, drain and purge the tank.

Records related to the accident show PCA is contesting the fines -- each worth $12,675 -- and the case remains open and subject to change.

The federal Chemical Safety Board's investigation also remains open.

PCA has been repeatedly cited for safety violations at its facilities around the country -- including at one facility that's seen five workers killed in the last decade.


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