Company Fined $250,000 Following Worker Fatality

OSHA cited Columbia Forest Products following the death of a worker because the company failed to use proper safeguards to protect its employees.

OSHA levied out another substantial monetary fine as proof that the agency will not stand for companies negligence where safety hazards are concerned.

Columbia Forest Products, Indian Head Division, was cited for violations of the OSH Act following the death of a worker at its Presque Isle, Maine production facility.

The company, which manufactures hardwood veneers, faces proposed penalties totaling $258,200.

According to C. William Freeman, OSHA area director for Maine, the alleged violations were discovered during an inspection in response to a fatal accident on July 15, 1999 on the plant's "eight foot line," a line of equipment which processes eight foot long logs by peeling sheets of veneer from rotating logs.

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 was 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."

Freeman also said that employees did not receive 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," commented Freeman.

The above-mentioned citations were all classified as willful, the most severe category of OSHA citation, issued only when the agency believes, based on 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," said Freeman. "At least one 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."

Additionally, many of the machine guarding deficiencies cited are similar or identical to hazards cited by OSHA during a 1995 inspection of the plant, according to Freeman.

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."

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