A New Hampshire wood company will pay a $100,000 fine and work to fix its plant to make it safe under the terms of its settlement with the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration.
An explosion and fire occurred Oct. 20, 2011, at the plant and could have caused a workplace injury to any of its employees. The wood pellet manufacturer had contested the proposed fine of nearly $150,000 and came to this settlement with OSHA.
On the day of the fire, it took more than 100 firefighters from 12 jurisdictions to put out the blaze in 15 hours. After OSHA investigated, its report said the sawdust that had built up on floors and such would fuel any explosions of other fire hazards.
Additionally, OSHA found that the manufacturing plant was not equipped with the adequate devices to help protect its workers. The agency said the company has agreed to install the necessary tools to prevent or remove any fire or explosive hazards.
This is not the company's first clash with OSHA. Nearly five years ago, the company was fined about $135,000 for allowing a worker to use an unguarded conveyor.
On the most recent case, the New England regional administrator for OSHA said that the company must recognize the known fact that sawdust can lead to both explosions and fires. She said worker safety should be the company's priority and must implement safety measures to protect its employees.
The company launched in late 2007 and found trouble early in 2008. Since then, according to a company news release, it has worked with OSHA and spent more than $2 million on safety improvements at its manufacturing plant.
Safety should always be addressed by a company, no matter what industry it is in. Employees who feel their work environment is unsafe have a right to ask the employer to make significant changes in the name of safety.
Source: Woodworking Network, "Wood Pellet Maker Settles OSHA ComDust Complaint," Rich Christianson, Nov. 29, 2012