Albany, N.Y. -- The death of an employee at International Paper Co.'s Ticonderoga plant could have been prevented if his employer provided proper safeguards and training, an inspection by the U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration has determined.
The 57-year-old general mechanic was removing burned filter bags of combustible fly ash dust from a dust collector in the facility's power plant and replacing them with new bags when the fly ash ignited. He sustained severe burns as a result and subsequently died.
OSHA cited the paper manufacturer on July 22 for two willful, one repeated and three serious violations of workplace safety standards.
The agency opened its inspection on Jan. 24, 2015, and found that International Paper failed to supply the employee with necessary fire-resistant clothing and did not train him and employees on the specific physical hazards of combustible fly ash. In addition, the system for conveying and collecting the fly ash was deficient. It had not been inspected for defects, did not comply with National Fire Protection Association standards and had not been maintained adequately.
“This worker's death was preventable. International Paper knew of these hazards and deficiencies and did not address them,” said Kim Castillon, OSHA's area director in Albany. “While nothing can return this man to his daughter and co-workers, the company can and must take prompt and effective steps to ensure that this never happens again.”
The inspection also found that the company's procedures for isolating the dust conveyor system's power source during maintenance activities were incomplete. It also found that the company failed to complete annual evaluations to ensure the procedures were effective. View the citations here*.
OSHA has placed International Paper in its Severe Violator Enforcement Program, which mandates targeted follow-up inspections to ensure compliance with the law. Initiated in March 2011, the program focuses on recalcitrant employers who endanger workers by committing willful, repeated or failure-to-abate violations.
International Paper, which faces $211,000 in proposed fines, is a global leader in the paper and packaging industry with manufacturing operations in the U.S., Europe, Latin America, Asia and North Africa.
The company has 15 business days from receipt of its citations and proposed 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 amputations, eye loss, 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 Albany Area Office at 518-464-4338.
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.