Personal Injury

Grisly paper mill death leads to $288,000 penalty for paper company

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has cited APC Paper Co. Inc. with numerous safety violations following the grisly death of an employee at the company’s Claremont, N.H. paper mill. The citations included three willful, one serious, and seven repeat safety violations carrying a total of $288,000 in proposed fines.

The July 26, 2010 incident occurred while the worker was hand-feeding feeding paper into a large industrial roller. The paper mill lacked a safe method of feeding paper through the rollers, relying on workers to direct the paper through the machine with their hands. The plant also failed to guard workers from making contact with the machine’s moving parts. Because of these hazardous conditions, one worker was killed when he was caught by the roller’s nip points and pulled in.

For the circumstances directly contributing to the employee’s death, OSHA cited APC Paper Co. with the three willful violations. According to OSHA, it considers a violation willful when the employer has demonstrated either an intentional disregard for the law or plain indifference to the safety and health of its employees.

“Had the company utilized a safe and effective means of automatically feeding the roller, instead of relying on hand-feeding, this incident and the resulting loss of this worker’s life would not have occurred,” said Rosemarie Ohar, OSHA’s area director for New Hampshire.

Other hazards OSHA discovered at the mill included a lack of guardrails on the paper machine and the building’s roof; not training employees who worked on and tested live electrical equipment; not de-energizing live equipment and employing safe electrical work practices; not providing employees with hearing protection refitting and retraining when hearing loss was detected, and additional machine guarding hazards. OSHA issues a serious citation when there is substantial probability that death or serious physical harm could result from a hazard about which the employer knew or should have known.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 4,340 American workers were fatally injured on the job in 2009, down from 5,214 work-related fatalities in 2008 and the lowest number since the Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries was first conducted in 1992. Although a decline in workplace fatalities is good, Labor Department officials say that it is likely tied to the drop in employment, especially in industries with typically high on-the-job fatality rates such as construction.