OSHA cites Maine sawmill for repeat safety violations

| May 24, 2013

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has cited a sawmill in Jefferson, Maine for three alleged repeat safety violations and seven serious violations imposing a fine of $79,310. The sawmill, N.C. Hunt Lumber, failed to use necessary safety procedures to prevent logging vehicles from striking workers. The violations included failure to install signs and barriers to prohibit worker entry to the logging carriage path and  a lack of guardrails on elevated walkways.

Sawmill Equipment is Hazardous

Hazardous sawmill machinery. Image by John Douglas.

Kennebec Journal reports, “Similar violations were reported by OSHA in 2009.”

William Coffin, OSHA’s area director for Maine, said in the news release, “These recurring hazards exposed employees to the hazards of falls and being struck by machinery. It’s imperative that employers take effective and ongoing action to ensure that hazards, once corrected, remain corrected.”

A repeat violation exists when an employer has  been previously cited for the same or a similar violation of a standard, regulation, rule or order at any other facility within the last five years. [Source: OSHA]

Machine Guard Sign

View this sign here.

Other serious violations that surfaced in the inspection started back in December 2012 included a defective emergency brake on a truck and the lack of machine guards to prevent employees from coming in contact with the moving parts of a saw and a grinder. The sawmill had an ungrounded extension cord, and incomplete energy control procedures.

Robert Hunt, vice president of N.C. Hunt Lumber, stated that the company has looked into the matter and addressed all safety concerns.

“We are going to an informational meeting to discuss the situation,” Hunt said. “We looked at the fines and violations. We are not disputing the things they cited. We corrected all the issues.”

According to Mr. Hunt, none of the violations were fatal. He also mentioned that his firm implements a number of employee safety programs and committees. Apparently, Northeast Lumber Manufacturers Association recognized the company for no lost-time injuries in 2011.

OSHA’s spokesperson at the regional office, Ted Fitzgerald, stated that they may cut down the fines or amend the imposed citations as part of a settlement agreement. He said, “OSHA is looking for three things: the employer accepts citations, the employer shows violations are corrected or are in the process of being corrected, and the employer pays the fine, which may or may not be reduced as part of a settlement agreement.”

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