The paper and pulp industry is one of the oldest in North America, and we have one of the largest paper mills in the world right here in Georgia. Thousands of people work there to produce millions of tons of paper for magazines, books, newspapers and other products every year. If you work in a paper mill, you likely know the work can be exceptionally hazardous.
You are at risk of being crushed or struck by massive weights of rolling, falling and sliding loads of pulpwood, and the list of hazards posed by industrial equipment is endless — particularly machines without the necessary safeguards. According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, other dangers include being burned and being poisoned. You can stay safe by becoming familiar with potential risks.
You are entitled to refuse to work on machines that lack the proper safeguards. According to OSHA, amputation and crushing hazards are some of the most significant threats in paper mills, and frequent inspections of safeguards are essential. Strict protocols should exist for shutting down equipment during maintenance and repairs. A lockout/tagout system should be in place and enforced at all times to prevent fatalities caused by hazardous energy.
Substances like sulfuric acid, chlorine, chlorine dioxide and other gaseous sulfur compounds are everyday hazards in paper mills, and they pose a significant health threat. Safe drums, spill containment pallets and spill berms along with proper storage are essential, and you should not handle any chemicals without appropriate personal protective equipment. You should make sure your PPE fits properly and ask for a replacement as its condition deteriorates.
The noise levels in paper mills are incredibly high, and ear protection is vital. Some pulp and paper plants reduce noise levels by investing in low-noise machinery and noise barriers. Frequent noise level monitoring is also essential.
Despite your best efforts to stay safe, fatigue and other human factors can limit alertness, which could compromise the safety of you and your co-workers. For that reason, everybody should share the responsibility to stay safe by looking out for potential hazards or unsafe practices and reporting it. If you and your co-workers watch each other’s backs, you will all have a better chance of going home safely at the end of the day.
Regardless of all the precautions and safety measures, accidents in the paper mill will likely continue to occur — hopefully infrequently. If you are the victim of such an incident, you might find comfort in knowing that the Georgia workers’ compensation insurance program should provide financial assistance to cover your medical expenses and lost wages for periods of temporary disability.
While you recover, experienced legal counsel can navigate the complicated claims process on your behalf.