March 28, 2016
Wisconsin wood pellet manufacturer continues to ignore
federal workplace safety warnings about amputation, fire dangers
Serial non-compliance earns Woods Fibers Inc. designation as 'Severe Violator'
NIAGARA, Wis. - For the sixth time since 2011, federal inspectors found a Wisconsin wood pallet manufacturer failed to comply with safety and health standards — putting its employees in jeopardy of suffering amputation, burns and other life-threatening injuries.
U.S. Department of Labor Occupational Safety and Health Administration inspectors returned to Wood Fibers Inc. in Niagara in October 2015 after the company failed to provide documentation that they corrected hazards found earlier. The agency found workers still exposed to the same dangers. OSHA also found similar violations in 2011, 2012 and 2014.
On March 24, OSHA placed the company in its Severe Violator Enforcement Program and issued one willful, four repeat and three serious safety and health violations based on the Oct. 6, 2015, inspection. Proposed penalties total $152,460.
"Each day, Wood Fibers exposes workers to dangerous hazards that can cause debilitating illness and devastating injuries," said Robert Bonack, OSHA's area director in Appleton. "The company needs to take immediate action to fix these hazards and demonstrate its commitment to protecting employees on the job."
Inspectors found employees operated machines without effective safeguards from moving parts, and combustible dust hazards in processing equipment and associated dust collection equipment. Between 1980 and 2005, the U.S. Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board identified 281 combustible dust incidents that led to the deaths of 119 workers, injured 718 and extensively damaged numerous industrial facilities.
Based in Niagara, Wood Fibers is a leading producer and distributor of residential and commercial heating pellets, animal bedding pellets, premium boiler fuel and organic landscape mulch. The company has 15 business days from receipt of its citations and penalties to comply, request an informal conference with OSHA's 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 Appleton office at 920-734-4521.
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.
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Release Number: 16-595-CHI
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