US Labor Department's OSHA cites New England Wood Pellet, proposes
$147,000 in fines for workplace hazards following October 2011 fire
Jaffrey, NH, company cited for similar hazards in 2008
CONCORD, N.H. – The U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration has cited New England Wood Pellet LLC for alleged repeat and serious violations of workplace safety standards at its wood pellet manufacturing plant on Old Sharon Road in Jaffrey. The agency has proposed a total of $147,000 in fines for fire and explosion hazards in the aftermath of an Oct. 20, 2011, fire at the plant.
The fire, which started in the pellet mill, was transported through several conveying systems to a pellet cooler and then to a dust collector, and caused several other flash fires. Shortly thereafter, explosions occurred in the dust collector and an exhaust muffler. The explosions sent fireballs outside of the building and likely ignited materials in two silos.
An inspection by OSHA's Concord Area Office found numerous fire and explosion hazards stemming from the absence of protective devices in the transport system, dust collection duct and conveyor systems that would prevent sparks, embers and fires from spreading throughout the system, as well as a lack of effective explosion protection due to the construction and/or location of dust collection ducts. The hazards were exacerbated by a buildup of combustible wood dust on surfaces throughout the plant and from the use of unsafe equipment to vacuum combustible dust.
"While it is fortunate that no one was killed in this conflagration, there is no excuse for the employer's failure to effectively minimize and address clearly recognized hazards that could kill or disable workers in a catastrophic incident," said Rosemarie Ohar, OSHA's area director for New Hampshire.
As a result of its findings, OSHA issued two repeat citations with $140,000 in fines for failing to provide a workplace free of recognized fire and explosion hazards, and for using unapproved electrical equipment to vacuum combustible dust. A repeat violation exists when an employer previously has been cited for the same or a similar violation of a standard, regulation, rule or order at any other facility in federal enforcement states within the last five years. Similar violations were cited in July 2008.
One serious citation with a $7,000 fine was issued for the buildup of combustible dust on equipment and surfaces throughout the facility. A serious violation occurs when there is substantial probability that death or serious physical harm could result from a hazard about which the employer knew or should have known.
Information on combustible dust hazards is available online at http://www.osha.gov/dsg/combustibledust/index.html.
The full citations can be viewed at http://www.osha.gov/ooc/citations/New-England-Wood-Pellet-108074-04-17-2012.pdf*.
New England Wood Pellet has 15 business days from receipt of its citations and proposed penalties to comply, meet with OSHA's area director or contest the findings before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.
To ask questions, obtain compliance assistance, file a complaint, or report workplace hospitalizations, fatalities or situations posing imminent danger to workers, the public should call OSHA's toll-free hotline at 800-321-OSHA (6742) or the agency's Concord office at 603-225-1629.
Under the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970, employers are responsible for providing safe and healthful workplaces for their employees. OSHA's role is to ensure these conditions for America's working men and women by setting and enforcing standards, and providing training, education and assistance. For more information, visit http://www.osha.gov.
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