Plant Worker Receives Compensation

The Ammons Law Firm won compensation in a negligence claim made on behalf of a 34-year-old worker who was injured by superheated water at International Paper’s Selma, Alabama plant.

The worker’s employer was hired to provide inspection services at the plant. While inspecting how well one of the heat exchanger tanks at the facility was functioning, the safety vest he was required to wear on the premises caught on a valve attached to another of the tanks, opening the valve and causing water with a temperature between 250 and 300 degrees to spray the worker with great force (75 psi).

The superheated water caused 2nd and borderline 3rd degree burns to 27 percent of the worker’s total body surface. A co-worker was thankfully able to free the man and push him to safety before further and potentially fatal damage could be done.

The claim Ammons made for the injured worker contained allegations that International Paper (IP) breached its duty to provide a safe workplace and was negligent in many respects in the operation of its Selma plant. Ammons contended that IP failed to examine workplace conditions to make sure they were safe, failed to warn workers of potential hazards, and failed to adopt and effectively use an injury prevention program that included hazard identification, prevention, and control. It was alleged—and confirmed by an OSHA investigation—that the valve that opened should have been protected from unwanted activation by a guard or cap. The absence of such a device created a very dangerous condition that exposed workers to burn hazards. According to Ammons, IP management informed OSHA during its investigation that its past practice was to have these guards or caps in place. Nonetheless, IP failed to detect that this valve was unguarded, did not cordon off the dangerous tank, and took no action to remedy the hazardous condition. All of this was allowed to happen despite IP touting on its website a goal of accident-free operations.

“A real commitment to safety rather than meaningless lip service is the only way to eliminate clearly preventable workplace injuries like this,” said Ammons.

The injured worker incurred medical expenses of over $78,000 to treat his burns. He sought reimbursement of such expenses as well as compensation for lost wages and pain and suffering.

The Ammons Law Firm is located in Houston, Texas and practices personal injury law, including cases involving tire defects, oil rig explosions, truck accidents, plant explosions, refinery accidents, wrongful death, post-collision fires, seat belt defects, seatback defects, airbag defects, SUV rollovers, and workplace negligence.