OSHA cites Domtar for safety violations

Posted June 09, 2009, at 11:06 p.m.

BAILEYVILLE, Maine — Montreal-based Domtar Inc. faces $107,000 in fines after the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration cited the company for 29 alleged serious violations of safety standards at its pulp mill in this Washington County town, federal officials said in a press release Tuesday.

Domtar officials said Tuesday they were aware of the citations, but declined to comment on the specific allegations. Domtar Inc. produces paper and pulp along with wood products.

“We have been actively engaged in working with the agency since the inspection on December 1st,” company spokesman Scott Beal said in a telephone interview Tuesday. “I think it would be premature for me to be particularly responsive in detail to the news release given where we are in discussions with OSHA.”

Interim Town Manager Dottie Johnson said Tuesday she had not heard of the alleged violations.

“Right now I don’t have any comment on it except that it seems to be one more thing that Domtar faces as it tries to come back on line,” she said.

The citation and fines encompass a number of hazardous conditions found during an OSHA inspection that began on Nov. 30, 2008, and continued the next day.

“These included numerous instances of unguarded moving machine parts; electrical hazards; fall hazards; an unmarked exit door and inadequately lit exit routes; confined space hazards; unsanitary eyewash facilities; work areas not maintained in clean and orderly condition; and no assessment of the workplace to determine what personal protective equipment workers would need,” the release said.

In addition, employees were exposed to crushing, struck-by and other hazards from unenclosed counterweights on a conveyor and an improperly maintained conveyor emergency stop cable. The release did not indicate any employees were injured on the job.

OSHA issues serious citations when death or serious physical harm is likely to result from hazards about which the employer knew or should have known, the release stated.

Beal confirmed that the company recently had received the citations.

“I am waiting for a confirming telephone call for a date and time for a meeting with the agency so that we can sit down and discuss it. I think until we get to that point I think it is best for me to reserve judgment and discussions in any detail until we’ve had a chance to confer with the agency,” he said.

The company has 15 business days from receipt of the citations and proposed penalties to comply and pay the penalties, participate in an informal conference with the OSHA area director or contest the citations before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission, the release said.

The inspection was conducted by OSHA’s Bangor District Office.

Under the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970, employers are responsible for providing a safe and healthful workplace for the employees.

It has been a tough few months for the company.

In March, the company indefinitely laid off more than 300 employees at its pulp mill. It remains unclear whether the company will begin production again.

Two years ago the company shut down its papermaking operation, putting 150 people out of work.

This is not the first time the company has been fined for either workplace or environmental violations.

In 2006 the company agreed to pay $7,500 in fines for several serious violations that OSHA found in the workplace. Among the violations: A forklift driver was not wearing a seat belt and the company’s forklift drivers did not sound their horns at locations where materials on pallets were stored on the sides of aisles.

In 2004 the company was fined $23,800 by the state’s Department of Environmental Protection for air quality violations and in 2003 the company entered into an administrative consent agreement with the state concerning discharge violations. Those violations cost the company nearly $88,000 for water quality and wastewater discharge fines.

OSHA’s role is to promote the safety and health of America’s workers by setting and enforcing standards, providing training, outreach and education, establishing partnerships and encouraging continual process improvement in workplace safety and health.

For more information visit the agency’s Web site at www.osha.gov.

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