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The death of an employee at International Paper Co.’s Ticonderoga, NY, plant was preventable if his employer provided proper safeguards and training, said officials at the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).

The 57-year-old general mechanic was removing burned filter bags of combustible fly ash dust from a dust collector in the facility’s power plant and replacing them with new bags when the fly ash ignited. He sustained severe burns and subsequently died from the injuries.

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International Paper is a global provider in the paper and packaging industry with manufacturing operations in the U.S., Europe, Latin America, Asia and North Africa. The company is now facing $211,000 in fines for two willful, one repeated and three serious violations of workplace safety standards.

The agency opened its inspection Jan. 24 and found that International Paper failed to supply the employee with necessary fire-resistant clothing and did not train him and employees on the specific physical hazards of combustible fly ash. In addition, the system for conveying and collecting the fly ash was deficient. It had not been inspected for defects, did not comply with National Fire Protection Association standards and had not been maintained adequately.

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“This worker’s death was preventable. International Paper knew of these hazards and deficiencies and did not address them,” said Kim Castillon, OSHA’s area director in Albany. “While nothing can return this man to his daughter and co-workers, the company can and must take prompt and effective steps to ensure that this never happens again.”

The inspection also found the company’s procedures for isolating the dust conveyor system’s power source during maintenance activities were incomplete. It also found the company failed to complete annual evaluations to ensure the procedures were effective.

As a result, OSHA placed International Paper in its Severe Violator Enforcement Program, which mandates targeted follow-up inspections to ensure compliance with the law. The program focuses on recalcitrant employers who endanger workers by committing willful, repeated or failure-to-abate violations.

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