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The U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has cited New England Wood Pellet LLC for 12 alleged violations of safety standards at its Jaffrey, N.H., manufacturing plant. The agency has proposed a total of $135,200 in fines after a January 23 accident in which an employee was caught in an unguarded conveyor.
"The sizable fines proposed here reflect the breadth and severity of the hazards identified during this inspection, including unguarded conveyors and exposure to fire and explosion hazards due to the design, construction and location of systems used to collect combustible wood dust generated during the manufacturing process," said Rosemarie Ohar, OSHA's area director in Concord. "It's imperative that the employer implement and maintain proper and effective safeguards to minimize these hazards and maximize protections for its employees."
OSHA issued New England Wood Pellet two willful citations, accounting for $112,000 of the proposed fines, for the combustible dust hazards and unguarded pulleys on four conveyors. OSHA defines a willful violation as one committed with plain indifference to or intentional disregard for employee safety and health.
The agency issued eight serious citations, with $19,200 in fines, for inadequate fall protection for employees working on conveyors; no program and employee training regulating work in confined spaces; failure to inspect energy control procedures and apply lockout devices to prevent the unexpected startup of machinery during maintenance; unguarded projecting shaft ends; not de-energizing electrical equipment prior to working on it; and lack of personal protective equipment for employees working on electrical equipment.
One repeat citation, with a $3,000 fine, was issued for the use and installation of electrical equipment not approved for a hazardous (Class 2 Division 2) location, a condition for which OSHA had cited the plant in 2005. Finally, OSHA issued the company one other-than-serious citation, with a $1,000 fine, for an incomplete and uncertified illness and injury log.
A serious citation is issued when death or serious physical harm is likely to result from a hazard about which the employer knew or should have known. An other-than-serious violation is a hazardous condition that would probably not cause death or serious physical harm but would have an immediate relationship to the safety and health of employees.
New England Wood Pellet has 15 business days from receipt of its citations to meet with OSHA or to contest them before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.