Paper Mill Dangers
Each year, approximately nine million tons of pulp is produced by paper mills. There are approximately 565 paper mill facilities and over 200,000 employees across the United States alone. While paper mills are an important part of modern life, they can present many occupational hazards.
Respiratory and Cardiovascular Health Threats
Paper mills use a variety of chemical substances that can pose a threat to human health:
- Gaseous Sulphur Compounds
- Chlorine and Chlorine Dioxide
- Sodium Hydroxide Mist
- Sulfuric Acid
- Acetic Acid
- Formic Acid
- Gluconic Acid
- Hydrogen Peroxide
- Dust Particles Containing Lime & Sodium Sulphate
Other dangerous materials that paper mill workers can be exposed to include pesticides, chlorinated organic compounds, and hexavalent chromium. In the past, many paper mill workers were exposed to asbestos—which affected cancer rates—but this threat has been largely eliminated in the modern world.
A paper mill worker can be exposed to hazardous materials at any stage of the paper making process—from the preparation of the raw wood to the production of the final paper product. The compounds that paper mill workers are exposed to have been shown to cause significant respiratory and cardiovascular effects.
Examples of the dangers during each phase of paper production include:
- Raw Wood Preparation: Wood Volatiles, Wood Dust, Spores, Fungi & Microbes
- Production of Cooking Liquor: Sulphate & Sulphite
- Pulp Production, Cooking: Sulphate, Sulphite & Ground Wood
- Pulp Bleaching, Bleach Plant: Chlorine Compounds, Ozone, Hydrogen Peroxide & Boron Compounds
- Wet Pulp, Paper Additives: Talc, Clays, Titanium Dioxide, Pigments & Dyes
- Paper Rolling, Sizing, Dying, Drying, Glazing & Coating: Paper Dust, Coating & Pigment Dusts
- Maintenance: General Plant Exposures, Asbestos & Welding Fumes
- Unknown Jobs, Power, Utility: General Plant Exposures & Asbestos
Common Industrial Accidents at Paper Mills
Besides occupational disease, there are many other dangers that come with working at a paper mill.
According to reports, between 2005 and 2010, 33 workers were killed in USW represented paper mills:
- 9 were killed by mobile equipment
- 7 were killed by fixed equipment
- 5 were killed in falls
- 4 died in explosions
- 2 were electrocuted
- 2 from scalding
- 1 in a flash fire
- 1 was crushed by a roll of paper weighing a ton
- 1 died by inhaling poisonous chlorine dioxide
- 1 fell into equipment used to chop paper
Safety Procedures That Should be Implemented
It is advised that in order to cut back on paper mill dangers, the following must occur:
- There must be union involvement in safety & health
- Work must be organized and managed smartly
- There must be effective processes for safety & quick emergency response
- Combustible & toxic dusts must be regulated
- There must be better machine guarding & lockout / tagout (LOTO)
- Workers should attend safety programs
- Workers must be trained to recognize hazards, know what to do and how to respond to emergencies
Have you sustained an injury or illness while working at a paper mill?
If you believe that your employer or co-worker is responsible for the paper mill injury or illness that you sustained, do not hesitate to contact our industrial accident attorneys at Arnold & Itkin. We have recovered more than $1 billion on behalf of our clients, and we are prepared to fight for your rights today.