Verso Pays $39K Fine in Wake of Sartell Plant Explosion

Verso Paper, which shuttered its Sartell Paper mill following a fire that killed one worker, has reportedly paid a $39,200 fine after being cited for two violations by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration.

Verso Paper Corporation has reportedly been fined for violations in the wake of a fatal explosion and fire at its Sartell paper mill.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) reportedly fined Verso for violations leading to the May fire, which killed one employee and injured several others. The company paid the $39,200 fine without contesting it, according to a report by the St. Cloud Times.

A state fire marshal’s investigation found that an overheated air compressor ignited oil vapors in a compressor and in an air receiving tank, which ruptured and exploded, according to the St. Cloud newspaper. OSHA cited Verso on November 15 for two violations—both involving a paper machine that was undergoing maintenance on the day of the explosion.

The paper machine was shut down on the day of the explosion after a leak was found in a water line valve; as part of the repair work, plant employees reportedly shut down a well pump that provided water to cool the plant’s compressors.

Specifically, the investigation found that Verso failed to ensure that “lockout/tagout procedures” were properly followed for the machine; it also found the company failed to conduct periodic inspections of the “energy control procedures” to ensure requirements were being followed when the machine was shut down, according to the St. Cloud Times.

To learn more about the investigation and OSHA’s findings, read the full story here.

Memphis, Tennessee-based Verso employed 259 at its Sartell mill and was the second-largest employer in the city of about 16,000. Following the fire, the company laid off most of the Sartell plant’s workers, and in August, the company said it would shut down the plant permanently.

Related Stories