Washington, DC, April 15, 2005 - The U.S. Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board (CSB) has presented the Georgia-Pacific Corporation with a certificate of recognition for the companyÂ?s response to a CSB safety recommendation following a tragic accident at the companyÂ?s Pennington, Alabama, pulp and paper mill in 2002.
The CSB found the accident resulted from the mixing of reactive chemicals Â? sodium hydrosulfide (NaHS) and an acid, which formed toxic hydrogen sulfide gas that escaped from a waste sewer line. The recommendation called on the company to conduct periodic safety audits of all Georgia-Pacific pulp and paper mills and ensure that management systems are in place to prevent chemicals from collecting and interacting in process sewers.
The certificate of recognition reads, "The CSB commends Georgia-Pacific for committing to implement a comprehensive program for auditing and addressing reactive chemical hazards not only in sewer systems, as recommended, but in all processes and operations throughout the company."
CSB Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Carolyn Merritt said, "The safety recommendations that result from our investigations are at the heart of what we do at the CSB in working to prevent accidents from occurring and reoccurring. In this case, Georgia-Pacific not only responded positively to all of our recommendations but also took company-wide steps to exceed the intent of a key recommendation. GP has committed to going beyond regulatory requirements in its effort to control reactive chemical hazards."
The accident caused the deaths of two workers and injured eight others. The Board declared responses by Georgia-Pacific to several other recommendations to be "acceptable." These included recommendations to the Pennington facility on identifying potential waste sewer hazards, establishing programs on safe handling of sodium hydrosulfide, and updating the mill's emergency response plan.
In evaluating responses to its recommendations, Board Members vote on them as "acceptable" or "unacceptable." Within those categories, the Board may choose to keep the matter open or to close it, or to work on an acceptable alternative to the original recommendation. If a recipient takes action beyond the intent of the recommendation, the Board may deem the response as "exceeds recommended action."
Reactive chemical incidents involving sodium hydrosulfide led the Board in July 2004 to publish a Safety Bulletin called "Sodium Hydrosulfide: Preventing Harm," outlining dangers and preventive measures in dealing with this hazard. This bulletin can be found on www.csb.gov, along with the final CSB investigation report on the Georgia-Pacific accident.
The CSB is an independent federal agency charged with investigating industrial chemical accidents. The agency's board members are appointed by the president and confirmed by the Senate. CSB investigations look into all aspects of chemical accidents, including physical causes such as equipment failure as well as inadequacies in safety management systems.
The Board does not issue citations or fines but does make safety recommendations to plants, industry organizations, labor groups, and regulatory agencies such as OSHA and EPA. Further information about the CSB is available from www.csb.gov. For more information, contact Sandy Gilmour, 202-261-7614 or 202-251-5496 (cell).