RWS Manufacturing Inc. faces $233,870 in fines for 28 willful, repeat and serious violations of workplace safety and health standards at its Queensbury, NY, manufacturing plant, said officials at the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).

The company makes wood shavings for animal bedding.

“The sizable penalties proposed here reflect the breadth and severity of the hazardous conditions found at this plant. Left uncorrected, they exposed workers to the dangers of fires and explosions, engulfment, toxic or oxygen-deficient atmospheres, hearing loss, struck-by injuries, amputation, electrocution, and hazardous chemicals,” said Kimberly Castillon, OSHA’s area director in Albany. “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.”

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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.

Schneider Bold

Furthermore, it was OK for workers 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 one foot in some locations, also posed a fall and slipping hazard.

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 did not have necessary information; there was a lack of information and training on hazardous chemicals; powered industrial trucks did not have inspections, untrained operators ran powered industrial trucks, and required guarding and fire watches were not in use nor 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 received 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.

A willful violation is one committed with intentional, knowing or voluntary disregard for the law’s requirements, or with plain indifference to worker safety and health. A repeat violation exists when an employer previously faced citations for the same or a similar violation of a standard, regulation, rule or order at any other facility in federal enforcement states within the last five years. A serious violation occurs 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.

“To prevent hazards such as these from occurring in the first place, employers should institute and maintain an effective illness and injury prevention program in which workers and managers work together to identify and eliminate hazards that can injure or sicken workers,” said Robert Kulick, OSHA’s regional administrator in New York.

Combustible dust consists 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.

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