Company fined for trash gate violations

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration 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, ME, 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.

Employee was caught in the gate

The accident occurred July 15, 1999, on the plant’s "8-foot line" — a line of equipment which processes 8-foot logs by peeling 8-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," Freeman says.

"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," he adds.

"In addition, various moving parts of the veneer machinery and its conveyor’s 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," Freeman says.

He notes that those 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 says. "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. 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 says 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," he says. "Proper procedures, equipment, training, and review could have prevented this accident."

These are the citations and proposed penalties:

• Four alleged willful violations, accounting for $235,000 of the proposed fines for:

— failure to shut down and lock out the valve that powered the trash gate;

— failure to provide updated lockout training to employees and failure to conduct an annual review of company lockout procedures;

— failure to guard veneer machinery and conveyor systems against accidental employee contact;

— failure to provide guardrails 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 without uniformly spaced rungs;

— no documented energy control procedures for the trash gate;

— lockout devices not indicating employee’s identity;

— slings not inspected daily and slings’ rated capacities not attached;

— veneer clippers not adequately guarded;

— disconnecting means not labeled.