CONCORD, NH – New England Wood Pellet LLC was hit with $147,000 in proposed fines following an investigation into an Oct. 20, 2011 fire at its Jaffrey, NH, plant by the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).
OSHA said its inspectors detected numerous fire and explosion hazards, including the absence of a spark detection system to prevent embers and fires from spreading from the wood conveyor and dust collection systems. The inspectors also noted seeing combustible wood dust built up on surfaces throughout the plant, as well as the use of "unsafe equipment to vacuum combustible dust."
The Oct. 20 fire at New England Wood Pellet started in the pellet mill and traveled through several conveyors to a pellet cooler and then to a dust collector, which triggered multiple explosions of the dust collector. OSHA said the explosions "sent fireballs outside of the building and likely ignited materials in two silos." Firemen responding from 14 towns snuffed out the fire; no injuries were reported.
OSHA fined New England Wood Pellet $135,000 for combustible dust and other violations in July 2008, stemming from an accident in which an employee was caught in an unguarded conveyor. Following its latest inspection, OSHA cited the wood pellet maker for two repeat citations bearing $140,000 in fines, including failing to provide a workplace free of of recognized fire and explosion hazards, and for using unapproved electrical equipment to vacuum combustible dust.
In addition, OSHA issued one serious citation with a $7,000 fine for the buildup of combustible dust on equipment and surfaces throughout the facility.
According to its website, New England Wood Pellet operates three plants with a combined capacity of more than 250,000 tons per year