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Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Pellet plant facing OSHA fine on fire

Pellet plant facing OSHA fine on fire 
From- SentinelSource.com


"According to the inspection report stemming from October’s fire, the flames in that blaze led to a series of explosions in the plant.

“The fire, which started in the pellet mill, was transported through several conveying systems to a pellet cooler and then to a dust collector, and caused several other flash fires,” an OSHA news release said. “Shortly thereafter, explosions occurred in the dust collector and an exhaust muffler.

“The explosions sent fireballs outside of the building and likely ignited materials in two silos.”
Without the required protective devices in the pellet transport system, dust collection duct and conveyor systems, sparks and embers are able spread throughout the system, officials said."

Lessons Learned:  Pellet mills create fuel. Fires and Explosions migrate through processes.   Damage limiting construction, inherently safer design, and proper engineering and administrative controls are required for mitigation. Combustible dust safety education is required for all stakeholders involved in these plants.
- Jeff Nichols

Pellet plant facing OSHA fine on fire

Ruling issued as blaze hits in Jaffrey again

Posted: Saturday, April 28, 2012 8:30 am | Updated: 11:53 am, Tue May 1, 2012.
JAFFREY — A federal agency found serious workplace safety violations at the time of a Jaffrey wood pellet manufacturing plant fire last year, a report released Friday said. Now Jaffrey-based New England Wood Pellet is facing up to $147,000 in fines from citations stemming from the Oct. 20, 2011, fire, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration announced Friday.

“While it is fortunate that no one was killed in this conflagration, there is no excuse for the employer’s failure to effectively minimize and address clearly recognized hazards that could kill or disable workers in a catastrophic incident,” said Rosemarie Ohar, OSHA’s area director for New Hampshire, in a statement.

The agency’s report was released just hours after a dozen area fire companies responded to a three-alarm blaze at the Old Sharon Road manufacturing plant Friday at about 2 a.m.
It’s the third fire at the plant since August 2008.

Company officials said Friday’s fire was caused by sparks after one of the pellet mills had a mechanical malfunction.

Jaffrey fire officials said Friday the cause of the fire was not determined, but the blaze was contained to a portion of the manufacturing floor called the cooler, where newly pressed pellets are cooled before being bagged.

Federal workplace safety officials have opened a new investigation as a result of Friday’s fire, said Ted Fitzgerald, a spokesman for OSHA.
According to the inspection report stemming from October’s fire, the flames in that blaze led to a series of explosions in the plant.

“The fire, which started in the pellet mill, was transported through several conveying systems to a pellet cooler and then to a dust collector, and caused several other flash fires,” an OSHA news release said. “Shortly thereafter, explosions occurred in the dust collector and an exhaust muffler.

“The explosions sent fireballs outside of the building and likely ignited materials in two silos.”
Without the required protective devices in the pellet transport system, dust collection duct and conveyor systems, sparks and embers are able spread throughout the system, officials said.
The system’s design also doesn’t meet standards for explosion prevention, officials said. That problem was made worse during the last fire by a buildup of wood dust throughout surfaces in the plant and the use of unsafe electrical equipment to vacuum combustible dust, officials said.
The company was issued fines totaling $140,000 for two “repeat” citations — issued when an employer has previously been cited for the same or similar violation — for failing to provide a workplace free of fire and explosion hazards and for using unapproved vacuum equipment, officials said.
A “serious” citation was also issued for the buildup of dust on surfaces, which carries a proposed $7,000 fine, officials said.

The company has 15 days to comply, meet with OSHA officials or contest the findings before the agency’s review commission.

Company officials are scheduled to meet with OSHA officials next week, Fitzgerald said.
In 2008, the company reached a settlement with the agency on more than $135,000 in fines stemming from 12 safety violations issued before the 2008 fire.

Company officials did not return a call for comment Friday afternoon about the agency’s findings.

Casey Farrar can be reached at 352-1234, extension 1435, or cfarrar@keenesentinel.com.

More Coverage



And a related story from The UnionLeader.com:

Pellet maker faults OSHA

New England Wood Pellet LLC of Jaffrey will meet Wednesday with U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration to discuss proposed fines totaling $147,000 related to an Oct. 20, 2011, fire and explosion at the plant.

The fire started in the pellet mill, was transported through several conveying systems to a pellet cooler and then to a dust collector, and caused several other flash fires, OSHA said in a news release Friday.

OSHA issued two repeat citations with $140,000 in fines for failing to provide a workplace free of recognized fire and explosion hazards, and for using unapproved electrical equipment to vacuum combustible dust. OSHA said it cited New England Wood Pellet for similar violations in July 2008.

On Monday, New England Wood Pellet faulted OSHA's comments.

“The company finds the recent public comments of OSHA's Area Director for New Hampshire about New England Wood Pellet to be one-sided and unfairly dismissive of the company's past and ongoing efforts to improve worker safety at its Jaffrey facility,” the company said in a statement. “Since 2008, New England Wood Pellet has worked cooperatively with her office, retained engineers and consultants, and spent over $2 million on various improvements to enhance worker safety at its Jaffrey facility.”

In a press release last week, OSHA N.H. Area Director Rosemarie Ohar said, “While it is fortunate that no one was killed in this conflagration, there is no excuse for the employer's failure to effectively minimize and address clearly recognized hazards that could kill or disable workers in a catastrophic incident.”

Separately, OSHA's Concord office opened a new inspection on Friday as a result of the latest fire last week, U.S. Department of Labor regional spokesman Ted Fitzgerald said.

Ohar said Monday, “OSHA looks forward to working with New England Wood Pellet in the future to improve safety and health at the facility.”

In its 28-page citation, OSHA also cited the wood pellet plant for buildup of combustible dust on equipment and surfaces and proposed a $7,000 fine.

“We're looking forward to presenting our side, and again, we've had a cooperative relationship,” New England Wood Pellet Chief Operating Officer Mark R. Wilson said.

He said a fire Friday morning at 2 a.m. was followed by the OSHA citation regarding the October 2011 fire. He said there were no injuries and minimal property damage in that fire.

But he said the firm spent $2.5 million over nine months for improvements in electrical systems, safety platforms and guards and hazardous dust fire and explosion protection.

“We have a cooperative relationship with the New Hampshire OSHA office,” Wilson said. Looking ahead to the Wednesday meeting, he said, “This is the first time we'll get to share with them what we think since this citation was issued. We'll discuss the content of the citation and the amount of the penalties, and hopefully we can come to agreement there and continue to work together to make improvements in our plants, which we plan on doing anyway.”

On the Net: www.pelletheat.com. Write to dpaiste@unionleader.com.



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