Strong pellet plant faces $27,000 in OSHA penalties

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AUGUSTA — A Strong wood pellet factory has been fined $27,000 by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration, a release issued by the agency Tuesday stated.

Geneva Wood Fuels LLC was cited for six serious violations of workplace safety standards, according to the release.

The fine follows an August 2009 explosion and an OSHA inspection found that employees at the plant, “were exposed to potential dust explosions and fires stemming from deficiencies in the construction, design or location of the plant’s wood pellet processing system …”

OSHA also cited the plant for the use of an unapproved spark-producing shop vacuum and for not training employees on specific work procedures to protect themselves, the release stated.

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“Combustible dust is a real and potentially deadly presence in many types of workplaces,” William Coffin, OSHA’s area director for Maine said in a prepared statement. “Employers should not assume this hazard is minor or non-existent. Addressing it requires ongoing attention and effort, but proper precautions can prevent or minimize the possibility of a devastating explosion or fire.”

Geneva 15 business days from receipt of its citations and proposed penalties to comply, participate in an informal conference with the OSHA area director or contest the findings before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission, the release stated.

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