What Went Wrong: PCA Hot Work Blast

Friday, April 6, 2018 @ 04:04 PM gHale

It wasn’t that long ago when three contractors suffered fatal injuries and seven other contractors sustained injuries after a “hot work” explosion February 8 last year at the Packaging Corporation of America facility in DeRidder, LA.

The fatally injured contractors were conducting hot work activities near a tank that contained a flammable atmosphere and ultimately exploded.

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As a result of that deadly blast, the Chemical Safety Board released an animation that shows the probable causes of the blast.

The explosion took place while contractors performed welding on a tank during a facility shut down. The explosion was powerful enough to cause the tank to fly about six stories in the air and land in a different area of the plant well over 300 feet away.

Welding is one of several types of “hot work” – or spark-producing operations – that can ignite fires or explosions. Most hot work incidents result in the ignition of combustible materials or the ignition of structures or debris near the hot work.

“The CSB has investigated many hot work accidents across the country, including a 2008 explosion that killed three workers at a different PCA plant in Tomahawk, Wisconsin.” said Chairperson Vanessa Sutherland. “Hot work incidents are one of the most common causes of worker deaths we see at the CSB, but also one of the most readily preventable.”

The blast apparently stemmed from a welding operation being done at PCA on a tank that contained flammable fluids and vapors.

Three men who died in the explosion were William Rolls Jr., 32; Jody L. Gooch, 40; and Sedrick Stallworth, 42.

Following the deadly 2008 explosion at the PCA plant in Wisconsin, the CSB issued a safety bulletin on the hazards of welding and other hot work entitled “Seven Key Lessons to Prevent Worker Deaths during Hot Work In and Around Tanks.” The agency also released a safety video called “Dangers of Hot Work,” which presents the findings from that bulletin. 
 
“The CSB continues to be concerned about the frequency of dangerous hot work incidents and has added safe hot work practices to the agency’s Drivers of Critical Chemical Safety Change Program, a list of key chemical safety advocacy initiatives,” Sutherland said.



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