US Labor Department's OSHA cites New England Wood Pellet LLC for fire
and combustible dust hazards at 2 New York manufacturing plants
Hazards similar to those cited at company's Jaffrey, NH, location
SYRACUSE, N.Y. – The U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration has cited New England Wood Pellet LLC for alleged repeat and serious safety violations following inspections of the company's Schuyler and Deposit manufacturing plants where workers were exposed to fire, rapid combustion and wood dust explosion hazards due to deficient implementation of protective measures in the wood pellet processing system and related equipment. Proposed penalties total $47,710.
"The accumulation of combustible wood dust poses catastrophic fire and explosion hazards if proper safeguards are not implemented and maintained," said Christopher R. Adams, OSHA's area director in Syracuse. "Of particular concern is that the hazards identified at these two plants echo similar conditions found at the company's New Hampshire manufacturing plant, which was the site of a combustible dust fire in October 2011. It's imperative that New England Wood Pellet effectively and systematically identify and eliminate such hazards at all its locations before its workers are harmed."
The violations found at the Schuyler plant include failing to isolate the conveying systems to prevent fire and rapid combustion from spreading both upstream and downstream in critical process equipment. In addition, the process equipment, such as indoor cyclones, pellet coolers and silos, lacked containment, explosion venting and suppression to mitigate the hazards of rapid and explosive combustion. At the Deposit plant, the violations include inadequate ventilation, lack of isolation devices and lack of spark detection and extinguishing systems in the wood pellet processing system.
As a result of these violations, OSHA issued New England Wood Pellet three repeat citations for the fire, explosion and electrical hazards. A repeat violation exists when an employer previously has been cited for the same or a similar violation of a standard, regulation, rule or order at any other facility in federal enforcement states within the last five years. Similar violations were cited in July 2008 at the company's Jaffrey, N.H., plant.
The New York inspections also resulted in the issuance of five serious citations for electrical, machine guarding and confined space hazards. A serious violation occurs when there is substantial probability that death or serious physical harm could result from a hazard about which the employer knew or should have known.
New England Wood Pellet was fined $30,000 for the Schuyler hazards and faces $17,710 in fines for the hazards at the Deposit plant.
"One means by which employers can prevent conditions that can injure or kill workers is to establish and maintain an effective illness and injury prevention program in which management and employees work together to identify and prevent hazardous conditions," said Robert Kulick, OSHA's regional administrator for New York.
Detailed information on combustible dust hazards and safeguards is available at http://www.osha.gov/dsg/combustibledust/index.html.
The citations and penalties for the Schuyler site, which were issued in December 2012, were settled during an informal conference with OSHA in which the original issued penalties were reduced from $39,270 in exchange for increased safety training.
For the Deposit plant, New England Wood Pellet has 15 business days from receipt of those citations and proposed penalties to comply, meet informally with the OSHA area director or contest the findings before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.
To ask questions, obtain compliance assistance, file a complaint, or report workplace hospitalizations, fatalities or situations posing imminent danger to workers, the public should call OSHA's toll-free hotline at 800-321-OSHA (6742) or the agency's Syracuse office at 315-451-0808.
Under the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970, employers are responsible for providing safe and healthful workplaces for their employees. OSHA's role is to ensure these conditions for America's working men and women by setting and enforcing standards, and providing training, education and assistance. For more information, visit http://www.osha.gov.
U.S. Department of Labor news materials are accessible at http://www.dol.gov. The information above is available in large print, Braille, audio tape or disc from the COAST office upon request by calling 202-693-7828 or TTY 202-693-7755.