Paper Workers Safety Alert: March 5, 2018

For the sake of sharing information and potentially preventing future occurrences, we are sharing a safety-related incident alert that we received from one of our Paper Sector Employers. Please read below information and provide any feedback as far as similar experiences and remedies. Send all responses to Laura Donovan:; 412-562-2504.

Incident Description

Two mill maintenance employees were working in the shop cutting a piece of stainless. One of the employees’ boots came in contact with a spark and it caught on fire. The fire was fast burning and the employee managed to kick the slip-on leather boot off in a matter of seconds. After the EMTs cleaned the employee's burn, the employee was sent to the ER for further evaluation. The employee has since been seen by a burn specialist and will make a full recovery.

Context of events

One employee was plasma cutting in the shop and the employee who was burned was holding the kill switch while standing 10 feet from cutting, out of the line of sparks and slag. A piece of hot slag came in contact with employee's boot and a reaction occurred sending a flame several feet in the air lasting approximately 4 seconds. Given the reaction, the suspicion is that the employee had sodium chlorate on the employee's work boot; however, the employee had not been in that area for some time.  The boots were sent for analysis to assist understanding the possible source of ignition.

Action Items

 - An investigation has been started and team assembled

- Boots have been sent to a lab to test for an accelerant

- Taking precautions for items of clothing that are exposed to sodium chlorate and disposal of them

- Existing procedures for working around Sodium Chlorate will be reviewed as part of the investigation & expectations for PPE/training

- Communicate with all employees

Press Inquiries

Media Contacts

Communications Director:
Wayne Ranick at 412-562-2444

USW@WORK (USW magazine)
Editor Jim McKay

For industry specific inquiries,
Call USW Communications at 412-562-2442

Mailing Address

United Steelworkers
Communications Department
60 Blvd. of the Allies
Pittsburgh, PA 15222