BOSTON – New England Wood Pellet LLC, which sustained a series of explosions and fires at its plant in Jaffrey, NH, has agreed to take corrective action to prevent future outbreaks, as part of its negotiated settlement with the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).

Wood Pellet Maker Settles OSHA ComDust ComplaintThe pellet manufacturer, which had contested citations and fines issued by the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration, also agreed to pay a fine of $100,000. The company had faced proposed fines totaling $147,000.

The settlement related to an Oct. 20, 2011 fire that took 15 hours for more than 100 firefighters from 12 towns to extinguish. (See video of WMUA-TV-s report of the aftermath of this fire at the bottom of this story.) 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.

In addition, OSHA reported that the plant  lacked protectve devices. The safety agency said New England Wood Pellet has agreed to implement measures to prevent, detect and suppress any potential fires and explosions. The company also will hire an independent third-party expert to evaluate the effectiveness of the corrective measures and the plant's process safety management systems.

Marthe Kent, OSHA's New England regional administrator. said, "It's well known that sawdust can present explosion hazards in addition to fire hazards. New England Wood Pellet cannot afford to gamble with the possibility of additional fires and explosions. The lives of its workers depend on effective safeguards being in place and in use at all times."

New England Wood Pellet, which opened in late 2007, experienced two earlier fires, according to the Sentinel Source. Company managers took exception to the April 27, 2012 press release that was issued relative to citations and fines relating to the Oct. 20, 2011 incident.

In a statement released a week after OSHA's press release, 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.”

New England Pellet was fined $135,3000 by OSHA for a January 2008 incident in which an employee was caught in an unguarded conveyor.

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