Two workers killed at Australian paper mill


Two workers killed at Australian paper mill

Paul Bartizan

31 May 2018

Two workers are dead and a third is in critical condition following a deadly gas leak at a paper mill in the regional Australian city of Albury on May 24. Ben Pascall, 28, was found unconscious on top of a tank and died soon afterwards in hospital. Lyndon Quinlivan, 36, died later, leaving behind a young family. Tom Johnson, 22, remains in hospital on life support.

At least another 12 workers taken to hospital were later discharged. About 150 workers at the Norske Skog mill were evacuated. The workers reportedly went to service valves on top of a water tank in a basement area toward the end of a three-day maintenance shutdown.

The gas believed responsible for the workers’ deaths is hydrogen sulphide, also known as dihydrogen sulphide or hydro sulphuric acid, which in low concentrations smells like rotten eggs. It is a by-product of the breakdown of wood fibre used to make paper.

Hydrogen sulphide is a colourless and highly flammable gas. Its characteristic smell can cause olfactory fatigue after long exposure at low concentrations. At higher concentrations, it rapidly leads to unconsciousness and death. As the gas is slightly heavier than air, it can build up in low-lying or enclosed spaces.

At this stage the cause of the gas exposure is unclear, but the fact that two workers have been killed means that something went seriously wrong.

Nevertheless, Australian Manufacturing Workers Union (AMWU) organiser Dave Corben praised the company’s response. “The management were really good, and they will do their own investigation,” he said. Corben said the union has no plan for industrial action.

The Norske Skog paper mill in Albury’s northern suburb of Ettamogah has 184 workers. It is one of the…

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