A Tragic Safety Reminder for All Site Owners

Like many of our clients working in heavy industries and manufacturing, we often study reports from workplace incidents to help understand how we can play an even bigger part in helping to keep people…

Like many of our clients working in heavy industries and manufacturing, we often study reports from workplace incidents to help understand how we can play an even bigger part in helping to keep people safe.

One event in particular, a tragic paper mill fire in North Carolina in 2020, caused a great deal of discussion in SA Equip HQ as some just-released US Chemical Safety Board (CSB) materials reveal learnings we think every site owner should see.

Our quick read overview of this incident, including some must-see advice for site owners, is below.


In short, a heat gun being used by a contracting company to warm resin while applying surface sheeting inside an ‘upflow tower’ fell into a resin container causing a fire. The fire spread into a connected ‘downflow tower’ causing two operatives from working separately in the connected tower to become, tragically and fatally, overcome by smoke.

The accident, described as “avoidable” by the CSB, featured a ‘perfect storm’ of factors many SA Equip clients will want to be aware of and review. These are highlighted in the new CSB materials but are summarised below for convenience:

• The job: The upflow tower contractors, who were a separate crew from the downflow tower crew and working on a different task, were repairing fibre-reinforced plastic sheeting by grinding away the old sheets and applying replacements using resin

• Temperature issues: Because cold weather was causing the sheets to slide down the tower, a heat gun was used to heat an open container of resin

• The escalation: The heat gun fell in the resin container and the operatives in the connected tower, who were not aware resin was being heated in this way, suffered from the effects of the smoke created by fire.

The CSB outlined some important points of note, some of which we’ll expand on further in the next section:

• The use of combustible materials: The FRB materials involved in the fabric of the tower assisted the spread of the fire.

• Pre-job planning: Planning for the eventuality of resin heating being needed would have made a more suitable method available.

• Confined working safety: No entry should be granted if allowed under the confined space permit.

• Hot work policy: Recognition of a heat gun as an ignition source and use of a better alternative should be covered by hot work policies.

• Connected workspace safety: A combined safety assessment is needed for connected spaces.

You can access a copy of the CSB’s Investigation Report here and read their Executive Summary from Final Report here.

Because many of these factors involve risks our portable hazardous area certified heat, light, air and power equipment is purpose-designed to resolve, we’ve highlighted some key issues of particular note for SA Equip clients (especially for site owner customers). 


The headline learning for site owners? Correct safety oversight between site owners and contractors during shutdowns, including proper awareness of the impact of separate crews working on different tasks at once, isn’t just essential but is likely to be a legal requirement* in your jurisdiction. (*Link for illustration only, please source the latest legislative requirements for your country/ working area).

For example, the UK HSE reminds those who “have a contractor working for you” that “both you and the contractor will have duties under health and safety law”.

“This also applies when a contractor employs subcontractors. If you are contracting construction work you have duties as a client under the Construction Design and Management Regulations 2015 (CDM).

client is anyone who has construction work carried out for them.” the organisation adds.

The HSE advises that anyone employing contractors should:

• Select a suitable subcontractor ensuring they have sufficient skills and knowledge for safe working

• Assess the risks of the work and consider the health and safety implications

• Do a risk assessment and make sure both you and the contractor are aware of the findings

• Provide information, instruction and training to your employees (including information for contractors on the risks from your activities and any controls in place)

• Set up liaison arrangements with everyone responsible to ensure health and safety of everyone in the workplace

• Decide what you need to do to manage and supervise the work of contractors and agree the nature of the controls before work starts

On the subject of the risk assessment, it’s worth noting that the HSE states: “You should already have a risk assessment for the work activities of your own business. The contractor must assess the risks for the contracted work and then both of you must get together to consider any risks from each other’s work that could affect the health and safety of the workforce or anyone else”.

Turning, then, to particularly key learnings from the Evergreen Packaging incident, there are four especially significant factors of note to SA Equip clients:

• 1, Hot work safety: It can’t be repeated too often that equipment doesn’t need to produce a spark or flame by design to be an ignition source. In the case of the Evergreen Packaging tragedy this fact was overlooked.

Note from our hazardous area equipment specialists: Contractors should ensure they are aware of the temperature rating of all equipment. For example, when working near resin if the temperature rating of an item of equipment is above the temperature rating for the resin’s flashpoint then this could cause fire and explosion.

• 2, Confined space safety between contractors: The Evergreen Packaging fire acts as a warning that confined space training, policies and correct equipment are essential but also underlines that awareness of confined space entry safety including co-operation and communication with other contractor crews is a must.

Note from our hazardous area equipment specialists: Hazardous area certificated ventilation equipment, in particular, is often used to not just control fumes and odours in a working area but also manage their impact on members of the public or other operatives working nearby.

• 4, Pre job planning: Having the right equipment before a job start means no ‘workaround’ changes being made on-site. For example, operating in summer months does not mean the correct ambient temperature for applying resin will occur.

Note from our hazardous area equipment specialists: Our recommendation, the SA Equip EX Heatbox, is purpose made for safe, efficient storage of paint, PFP, grease and other substances at optimum temperatures right beside your working area and even in a Zone 1 Hazardous area.

The theme of proper planning and equipment continually occurs in any assessment of the Evergreen Packaging fire learnings. We’re proud to help clients make sure they have the right equipment for hazardous area working and will be happy to offer specialist equipment advice. Simply contact us


We’re much more than just a ‘supplier’. We help our clients across the world achieve optimal lighting, heat and ventilation results in challenging environments. Our in-house product development team can even devise a bespoke solution.

We specialise in:

• Portable EX lighting

• Portable EX power distribution

• Portable EX ventilation

• Portable EX heating

Most of all, we bring almost 100 years of pacesetting service and knowledge – with a foundation in the most extreme shipping and oil industry environments – to customers across heavy industry, aerospace, defence, utilities, pharmaceuticals, distilling, power stations and more.