Fire Log Manufacturer Feels OSHA's Heat After Worker's Burning

OSHA is proposing $217,500 in penalties against Hearthmark LLC, doing business as Jarden Home Brands, for safety violations at its Birmingham, Ala., location. The Dareville, Ind.-based company, which has additional facilities in North Carolina, Texas, California, and Ontario. The manufactures fire logs under the Pine Mountain, Java-Log, and Starter Logg brands.

The agency's inspection began in July 2009, after an employee was burned when hot wax he was transferring from a railcar erupted. The investigation, including an evaluation for combustible dust, was expanded to all areas of the Birmingham facility when inspectors observed a number of safety hazards during their initial walk through.

OSHA has cited the company with two willful violations with a proposed penalty of $110,000 for failing to develop and use specific lockout/tagout (of accidental energy start-up) procedures for workers engaged in servicing and performing maintenance activities and housekeeping issues related to the accumulation of combustible dust.

The company also is being cited for 31 serious safety violations with $107,500 in proposed penalties. The violations include failing to establish and implement procedures for employees transferring wax from railcars to holding tanks; unguarded platforms; fixed stairs not having standard guard rails; lack of machine guarding; numerous electrical hazards (including unapproved electrical equipment being used in areas containing combustible dust); not filling required permits for confined spaces; belts, pulleys, and shafts not being guarded; and failing to utilize restraint systems on powered industrial trucks.

"OSHA determined that this company is fully aware of the deficiencies it has in its safety program and what needs to be changed to provide safe work conditions for employees but hasn't acted to correct those deficiencies," said Roberto Sanchez, director of OSHA's Birmingham Area Office.

The company has 15 business days from receipt of the citations to comply, ask for an informal meeting, or indicate that it plans to contest the citations and proposed penalties before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission. The site was inspected by staff from OSHA's Birmingham office.

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