Wood Pellet Plant Cited for Willful Dust, Machine Guarding Hazards

OSHA has cited New England Wood Pellet LLC for 12 alleged violations of safety standards at its Jaffrey, N.H., manufacturing plant. The agency has proposed a total of $135,200 in fines after a January 23 incident in which an employee was caught in an unguarded conveyor. Of that total, two willful citations for combustible dust hazards and unguarded pulleys on four conveyors accounted for $112,000.

"The sizable fines proposed here reflect the breadth and severity of the hazards identified during this inspection, including unguarded conveyors and exposure to fire and explosion hazards due to the design, construction and location of systems used to collect combustible wood dust generated during the manufacturing process," said Rosemarie Ohar, OSHA's area director in Concord, the office that conducted the investigation. "It's imperative that the employer implement and maintain proper and effective safeguards to minimize these hazards and maximize protections for its employees."

In addition, the agency issued eight serious citations, with $19,200 in fines, for inadequate fall protection for employees working on conveyors; no program and employee training regulating work in confined spaces; failure to inspect energy control procedures and apply lockout devices to prevent the unexpected startup of machinery during maintenance; unguarded projecting shaft ends; not de-energizing electrical equipment prior to working on it; and lack of personal protective equipment for employees working on electrical equipment.

One repeat citation, with a $3,000 fine, was issued for the use and installation of electrical equipment not approved for a hazardous (class 2 division 2) location, a condition for which OSHA had cited the plant in 2005. Finally, OSHA issued the company one other-than-serious citation, with a $1,000 fine, for an incomplete and uncertified illness and injury log.

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