PRESQUE ISLE, Maine — A North Carolina-based company with a branch in Presque Isle has been cited by the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration for 15 “alleged willful and serious violations of workplace safety standards” following the death of a worker earlier this year at the company’s Presque Isle mill.
Columbia Forest Products faces a total of $119,500 in proposed fines.
The ruling against the company, North America’s largest manufacturer of hardwood, plywood and hardwood veneer products, was announced Tuesday. The company’s decorative interior veneers and panels are used in high-end cabinetry, fine furniture, architectural millwork and commercial fixtures.
Thomas Bray, 57, of Woodland died as a result of the March 22 accident, which occurred just before 7:45 p.m. Bray was caught the moving parts of a machine known as a stacker, which activated while he was performing maintenance inside the machine.
Bray was taken to The Aroostook Medical Center by Crown Ambulance after the accident.
He died at the hospital a short time later.
According to OHSA officials, a federal investigator found that the machine had not been turned off and its power source had not been locked out to prevent its unintended startup, as required under OSHA’s hazardous energy control, or lockout-tagout, standard.
“This is exactly the type of incident this standard is intended to prevent,” said William Coffin, OSHA’s area director for Maine, in a written statement issued Tuesday. “Had proper lockout-tagout procedures been used, this needless death could have been avoided.
“What’s especially disturbing is that this employer well knows the requirements to power down and lock out machinery, yet ignored them,” he wrote.
OSHA issued Columbia Forest Products one willful citation, with the maximum proposed penalty of $70,000, for failing to de-energize and lock out the stacker. OSHA defines a willful violation as one committed with plain indifference to or intentional disregard for employee safety and health.
The company also was issued 14 serious citations with $49,500 in fines for defective fork trucks, lack of access stairs, no eye flushing facilities for employees working with corrosives, several machine guarding and electrical hazards, and additional lockout-tagout hazards. 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.
Columbia Forest Products Inc. has 15 business days from receipt of its citations and proposed penalties to comply, meet with OSHA or contest the findings before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.
The company did not respond to a request for comment Tuesday.
The Greensboro, N.C.-based company was founded in 1957 and employs more than 2,000 people at facilities throughout the United States and Canada.