Killed Worker May Have Saved Others

DICKSON, TN—A forklift explosion at Quad/Graphics’ printing facility here claimed the life of its operator, The Dickson Herald reported, but the actions he took prior to the explosion may have saved the lives of countless other employees.

Bruce Mitchell, a stacker for the company, died Aug. 13 after sustaining injuries in the explosion, which caused burns across 98 percent of his body, the paper said. The explosion triggered a fire inside the building that was primarily contained to the forklift and was quickly extinguished.

According to the incident report filed by the Dickson City Fire Department, Mitchell, 60, was driving the forklift when it struck a small pipe, which then spewed the highly flammable toluene. It is a chemical used as a solvent and enables ink to flow easier.

The report also said the impact of the forklift also damaged the ground level emergency shut-off valve, which prompted Mitchell to run upstairs and close a second story shut-off valve. He became doused with toluene in the process.

Mitchell returned to the truck and drove it toward a decontaminating shower. But, in the process, something caused an ignition of the chemical in his clothing and the subsequent forklift explosion. He died later at a local hospital.

In stopping the toluene leak at the second floor shut-off valve, Mitchell may have prevented a catastrophic event from occurring.

Quad/Graphics released the following statement through spokesperson Claire Ho:

“This is a very sad time for our company. …Currently, we are looking into the circumstances of what happened. We are conducting our own investigation, as well as working closely with OSHA. We do not yet have all the facts and desire to share only the most accurate information with the media and the community.

“Words cannot express the immense sadness of this tragedy, and we extend our deepest sympathies to Mr. Mitchell’s family and friends. We are also mindful that many employees of our Dickson plant are feeling this loss. Given the number of years Bruce worked at the plant, we know he was well-known and will be greatly missed.

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