New England Wood Pellet Cited for New ComDust Violations

By Rich Christianson | Posted: 03/13/2013 9:23PM


SYRACUSE, NY - New England Wood Pellet LLC has been cited for multiple alleged combustible dust-related citations by the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration, four months after agreeing to pay $100,000 to settle violations stemming from an October 2011 fire at its Jaffrey, NH, plant.

New England Wood Pellet FireAftermath of the Oct. 20, 2011 explosion and fire at New England Wood Pellet from a news report posted on Youtube by WMUR TV. OSHA cited New England Wood Pellet for alleged repeat and serious safety violations following inspections of the company's Schuyler and Deposit, NY, manufacturing plants. OSHA said, "(W)orkers were exposed to fire, rapid combustion and wood dust explosion hazards due to deficient implementation of protective measures in the wood pellet processing system and related equipment."

Last November, New England Wood Pellet after initially contesting its citations, reached a settlement with OSHA. The settlement related to an Oct. 20, 2011 fire that took  more than 100 firefighters from 12 towns 15 hours to extinguish.  A follow-up inspection by OSHA concluded that a buildup of sawdust on surfaces throughout the plant "exacerbated" other explosion and fire hazards identified at the plant.

Christopher Adams, OSHA's area director in Syracuse, said, "Of particular concern is that the hazards identified at these two plants echo similar conditions found at the company's New Hampshire manufacturing plant, which was the site of a combustible dust fire in October 2011. It's imperative that New England Wood Pellet effectively and systematically identify and eliminate such hazards at all its locations before its workers are harmed."

The pellet maker faces proposed penalties totaling $47,710 for the new citations.

OSHA's alleged violation at New England Wood Products' Schuyler plant include failing to isolate the conveying systems to prevent fire and rapid combustion from spreading both upstream and downstream in critical process equipment. In addition, OSHA said the process equipment, including indoor cyclones, pellet coolers and silos, lacked containment, explosion venting and suppression to mitigate the hazards of rapid and explosive combustion.

Alleged violations at the Deposit plant include inadequate ventilation, lack of isolation devices and lack of spark detection and extinguishing systems in the wood pellet processing system.

Related to its New Hampshire plant violations, OSHA issued New England Wood Pellet three repeat citations for the fire, explosion and electrical hazards. The New York inspections also resulted in the issuance of five serious citations for electrical, machine guarding and confined space hazards.

OSHA said the citations and penalties for the Schuyler site, which were issued in December 2012, were settled during an informal conference; they were reduced from $39,to $17,710 in exchange for increased safety training.

New England Wood Pellet has 15 business days from receipt of citations and proposed penalties to comply or meet informally with the OSHA area director or contest the findings at its Deposit plant before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.

Related Blog: Woodworkers Beware: OSHA's Blame and Shame Game.


About the Author

Rich Christianson

Rich Christianson is Associate Publisher and Editor at Large of Woodworking Network. During his 25+ years covering the wood products industry, Rich has toured hundreds of manufacturing plants throughout North America, Europe and Asia. His reporting has covered everything from the state of the industry and impact of wood imports to technology and environmental issues. In his current capacity he is responsible for editing the daily Woodworking Network Update newsletter and coordinating events including the annual Cabinets & Closets Conference & Expo and Canada’s biennial Woodworking Machinery & Supply Expo. He can be contacted at or follow him on Google+.

Read more of Rich Christianson's blogs.

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