OSHA Proposes $1.6 Million in Fines for Violations at Maine Mill
WASHINGTON (AP) _ The government Wednesday proposed fining the owner of Maine’s largest paper mill nearly $1.6 million for 531 alleged safety violations inspectors said left workers at substantial risk of death and serious injury.
The Labor Department’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration said many of the problems found at the Boise Cascade Corp. mill in Rumford, Maine, had been detected in company safety audits but left uncorrected.
A government inspection six months ago found ″a substantial disregard by this major corporation for the safety and health of its employees,″ said Alan C. McMillan, acting OSHA chief.
The inspection of the mill, which has 1,600 workers, was requested by the United Paperworkers union, OSHA said.
Boise Cascade has 15 working days to contest the citations and the $1,591,600 in proposed fines. Boise Cascade spokesman Eric A. Baxter said the OSHA complaint would be reviewed ″item by item″ before any decision is made.
″We welcome any effort that will help us improve the safety of our mill,″ Baxter said. ″Safety is the utmost priority here at Boise Cascade.″
A nearly $1 billion modernization plan for the mill included significant safety improvements, he said.
OSHA cited Boise Cascade for more than 300 alleged willful violations of safety standards, including sub-par records documenting illnesses and injuries, unsafe operation of industrial trucks, failure to protect workers from exposed, high-voltage electrical equipment, improper guarding of power equipment such as belts and pulleys and failure to vent gases to safe locations.
Other alleged willful violations included failure to install guard rails to protect workers from falls, unsafe noise exposure, inadequate emergency response plans and inadequate respiratory protections.
Willful violations are those in which an employer knows a violation or potential violation of safety standards exists but does nothing to correct it.
Boise Cascade also was accused of 175 serious violations, 33 ″less serious″ violations and five repeat violations.
Serious violations are those in which an employer knew or should have known about conditions that pose a substantial probability of death or serious injury but doesn’t correct the problems.
The company drew attention earlier this week because of a violent protest at a Minnesota paper mill.
The protest by union workers and supporters was attributed to a company decision to hire a non-union general contractor for a mill expansion project, who in turn has hired mostly non-union labor.
Twenty-nine people were arrested at the protest, which caused a reported $1.3 million in damage to the International Falls, Minn., mill near the Canadian border.