Region 1 News Release: BOS 2000-007
Thursday, January 13, 2000
Contact: Ted Fitzgerald
PHONE :(617) 565-2074
OSHA CITES COLUMBIA FOREST PRODUCTS FOR ALLEGED WILLFUL, SERIOUS AND REPEAT SAFETY VIOLATIONS FOLLOWING WORKER DEATH AT PRESQUE ISLE, MAINE, PLANT; OVER $250,000 IN FINES PROPOSED
The U.S. Labor Department's Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has cited Columbia Forest Products, Indian Head Division, for alleged Willful, Serious, Repeat and Other than Serious violations of the Occupational Safety and Health Act following the death of a worker at its Presque Isle, Maine, production facility. OSHA has proposed penalties against the company, which manufactures hardwood veneers, totaling $258,200.
According to C. William Freeman III, OSHA area director for Maine, the alleged violations were discovered during an inspection initiated in response to a fatal accident which occurred July 15, 1999 on the plant's "eight foot line", a line of equipment which processes eight foot long logs by peeling eight foot long sheets of veneer from rotating logs. Wood scraps fall through a trash gate, located at the bottom of the machinery, which can be rotated to open and close. At the time of the accident, an employee was cleaning scrap wood from beneath the machinery when a second employee, unaware of the first worker's location, activated the trash gate. The first employee became caught between the rotating gate and the machinery's steel beam framework.
"The design and location of the trash gate is such that the only effective way of protecting employees against being struck by the gate when it moves is to shut down and lock out its power source before employees service or work in close proximity to it," said Freeman. "That was not done here. Nor had employees received training in how to isolate and lock out the valve which powered the gate nor had the company conducted a required annual review of its lockout procedures that would have identified these safety deficiencies.
"In addition, various moving parts of the veneer machinery and its conveyors systems were not guarded against accidental employee contact and guardrails were not provided for employees working at upper levels of the machine to prevent them from falling into the veneer machinery," he said.
Freeman noted that the above-mentioned citations were all classified as willful, the most severe category of OSHA citation, issued only when OSHA believes, based on its inspection, that an employer knew what safeguards were required to protect workers yet apparently elected to ignore them.
"These hazards were neither hidden nor unknown," he said. "At least one other employee had been injured by this gate earlier this year and three other workers had been injured in similar circumstances on another, similar, production line," said Freeman. "In addition, many of the machine guarding deficiencies cited here are similar or identical to hazards cited by OSHA during a 1995 inspection of this plant."
Freeman noted that the company was also cited for several alleged Serious violations involving ladder safety, energy control procedures and other machine guarding issues.
"This case is a textbook example, as well as the most compelling example, of the necessity for isolating and locking out machines' power sources before servicing them." said Freeman. "Proper procedures, equipment, training and review could have prevented this accident."
Specifically, the citations and proposed penalties encompass:
Four alleged Willful violations, accounting for $235,000 of the proposed fines, for:
- failure to shut down and lock out the valve which powered the trash gate;
- failure to provide updated lockout training to employees and failure to conduct an annual review of company lockout procedures;
- veneer machinery and conveyor systems were not guarded against accidental employee contact;
- guardrails were not provided for employees working at elevations in order to prevent falls into machinery.
Seven alleged Serious violations, with $23,000 in penalties proposed, for:
- unguarded pinch points on a reel buggy;
- a metal ladder lacked uniformly spaced rungs;
- documented energy control procedures were not developed for the trash gate;
- lockout devices did not indicate employee's identity;
- slings were not inspected daily and a sling's rated capacity was not attached;
- veneer clippers were not adequately guarded;
- disconnecting means were not labeled.
One alleged Repeat violation, with a $200 penalty, for:
- standard railing not provided for a stairway.
Two alleged Other than Serious violations, with no penalties proposed, for: unmarked steel flooring and unguarded shaft ends.
Freeman urged Maine employers and employees with questions regarding workplace safety and health standards to contact the OSHA offices in Bangor or Portland and added that OSHA's toll-free, nationwide hotline --1-800-321-OSHA (1-800-321-6742)-- may be used to report workplace accidents or fatalities or situations posing imminent danger to workers, especially if they occur outside of normal business hours.
A willful violation is defined by OSHA as one committed with an intentional disregard of, or plain indifference to, the requirements of the Occupational Safety and Health Act and regulations. A serious violation is defined as one in which there is a substantial probability that death or serious physical harm could result, and the employer knew, or should have known, of the hazard. An other-than-serious violation is a condition which would probably not cause death or serious physical harm but would have a direct and immediate relationship to the safety and health of employees. A repeated violation is defined by OSHA as one where, upon reinspection, a substantially similar violation is found.
OSHA is empowered by the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970 to issue standards and rules requiring employers to provide their employees with safe and healthful workplaces and jobsites, and to assure through workplace inspections that those standards are followed.
The company has 15 working days from receipt of the citations and proposed penalties to either elect to comply with them, to request and participate in an informal conference with the OSHA area director, or to contest them before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.
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The information in this release will be made available to sensory impaired individuals upon request. Voice phone: (617) 565-2072. TDD (Telecommunications Device for the Deaf) Message Referral Phone: 800-347-8029.