OSHAThe large penalties levied against an Albany, NY manufacturer “reflect the breadth and severity” of the hazardous conditions found at its plant, according to OSHA’s Kimberly Castillon.

"The fact that a catastrophic incident has not occurred does not absolve this employer of its responsibility to reduce and prevent risk and eliminate hazards that could injure or kill its workers," said Castillon.

RWS Manufacturing, which produces wood shaving for animal bedding, faces a total of $233,870 in proposed fines for 28 violations that include combustible dust, confined space, electrical, chemical and mechanical hazards.

Castillon said the hazards found at the company exposed workers to fires, engulfment, toxic or oxygen-deficient atmospheres, hearing loss, struck-by injuries, amputation, electrocution, and hazardous chemicals.

Foot deep wood shavings

Inspections by OSHA's Albany Area Office, begun in November 2012 in response to a complaint, found hazardous accumulations of explosive, combustible wood dust on structural supports, pipes, fixtures, ductwork, equipment and floors. Furthermore, workers were allowed to smoke in areas where excessive wood dust and wood shavings were present and the plant's dust collection system lacked a fully enclosed motor and grounded or bonded ductwork. The accumulation of wood shavings, as deep as 1 foot in some locations, also posed a fall and slipping hazard.

Wide range of violations

In addition, the plant did not develop and implement a confined space entry program and provide training, warning signs and retrieval systems to protect workers in confined spaces; workers exposed to excessive noise levels were not provided a hearing conservation program, training, a choice of hearing protection and audiometric testing; respirator users were not provided necessary information; there was a lack of information and training on hazardous chemicals; powered industrial trucks were not inspected and/or were operated by untrained operators; and required guarding and fire watches were not used and maintained when welding near flammable wood shavings. Additional hazards include unguarded moving machine parts, exposed live electrical parts, ungrounded equipment and improperly stored oxygen cylinders.

In total, RWS was issued two willful citations with $107,800 in fines, 25 serious citations with $118,370 in fines and one repeat citation with a $7,700 fine for these hazards. The citations can be viewed online at www.osha.gov/ooc/citations/RWS_H.pdf and http://www.osha.gov/ooc/citations/RWS_S.pdf.

Combustible dust resources

Combustible dust is made up of fine particles that present an explosion hazard when suspended in air under certain conditions. A dust explosion can be catastrophic and cause employee deaths, injuries and destruction of entire buildings. Detailed information on combustible dust hazards and safeguards is available at www.osha.gov/dsg/combustibledust/index.html.