JAFFREY, NH - Management of New England Wood Pellet lashed out at the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration, saying that statements in OSHA's April 27 new release announcing fines against the manufacturer were unfair.
In particular, the company took exception to a comment by Rosemarie Ohar, OSHA's area director of New Hampshire. "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," Ohar stated in the news release.
In a statement released on Monday, New England Wood Pellet said, "The company finds the recent public comments of OSHA's Area Director for New Hampshire about New England Wood Pellet to be one-sided and unfairly dismissive of the company's past and ongoing efforts to improve worker safety at its Jaffrey facility. Since 2008, New England Wood Pellet has worked cooperatively with her office, retained engineers and consultants, and spent over $2 million on various improvements to enhance worker safety at its Jaffrey facility.”
Those safety investments included improvements in hazardous dust and explosion protection, according to the New Hampshire Sentinel Source.
New England Wood Pellet was fined $147,000 for several violations related to combustible dust issues stemming from OSHA's investigation of an Oct. 20, 2011, explosion and fire at the company's Jaffrey plant. The Sentinel Source reported that OSHA issued its news release mere hours after the plant sustained another fire - it's third since 2008 - that was ignited by sparks caused by a mechanical malfunction of a pellet mill. The April 27 fire caused minimal damage. None of the fires resulted in injuries.
New England Wood Pellet officials are scheduled to meet with local OSHA authorities on Wednesday to discuss the violations, fires and plans to further reduce combustible dust issues at the plant. In its statement, the company acknowledged "that the fundamental nature of wood dust and wood pellet manufacturing presents challenges to all wood pellet mill operators."
In its inspection following the Oct. 20 fire, OSHA cited New England Wood Pellet 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. The wood pellet maker was fined $135,000 by OSHA in July 2008 for combustible dust-related and other violations.
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