Wood firm hit with 13 willful safety violationsPOUND, WI -- Northeastern Wisconsin Wood Products received 18 alleged health and safety citations, including 13 willful violations from the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).

The 18 violations, ranging from failure to protect workers' ears and eyes through lack of machine guards and accumulations of combustible dust, carry penalties totaling $378,620 in proposed fines.

"Northeastern Wisconsin Wood Products has a history of failing to comply with OSHA standards. The company has yet to abate many violations cited in a previous inspection," said Michael Connors, OSHA's regional administrator in Chicago.

Northeastern Wisconsin Wood Products was first inspected by OSHA in 2006 and issued eight citations. A follow-up inspection in 2007 found that most of the originally cited hazards remained unabated. Following the May 2010 issuance of a secretary of labor petition for summary enforcement, the company was given 30 days to work with a Wisconsin state consultation service to abate the violations. The consultation service is alleged to have ended the abatement process due to a lack of cooperation by the company. Many of the originally cited violations once again were cited during a January 2011 inspection.

Five of the willful health violations involve failing to implement a hearing conservation program for employees whose noise exposure exceeded 85 decibels; perform and certify a hazard assessment of the workplace; develop and implement a hazard communication program to include training for employees; maintain copies of material safety data sheets; and provide appropriate eye protection for workers. Additionally, OSHA said the company allowed unsanitary conditions to pose serious fire and explosion hazards by letting sawdust accumulate in a pile of approximately 4 feet by the outer wall and several inches on horizontal surfaces such as pipes, wall supports and ledges.

The other eight willful safety violations involve a lack of machine guarding on belts, pulleys, gears and band saw blades; a lack of guardrails; unguarded open-sided floors and platforms presenting a fall hazard greater than 4 feet; not using electrical equipment correctly; and not effectively closing openings in boxes and cabinets. A willful violation is one committed with intentional knowing or voluntary disregard for the law's
requirements, or with plain indifference to worker safety and health.

The company also was cited for one repeat safety violation, with a proposed penalty of $7,920, for failing to provide potable water for drinking.

Three serious safety violations, with proposed penalties of $9,900, include failing to periodically inspect energy control procedures, use group lockout devices and train employees in electrical safety.

Posted by Rich Christianson

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