Owners of the an Essex County paper mill have been faulted for numerous serious safety violations in the death of a 57-year-old worker who was fatally burned at the plant this winter.
International Paper Co. faces up to $210,000 in fines in connection with the death of Jorg Borowski, who was caught in a flash fire while servicing air pollution equipment Jan. 23, according to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration of the U.S. Department of Labor. He died of his burns a day later.
International Paper also was added to a special OSHA program aimed at companies that “have demonstrated indifference to (safety regulations) by willful, repeated, or failure-to-abate violations.” OSHA linked the company’s failure to conduct annual safety inspections of the “fly ash bag house” where Borowski was working to identical violations at its plants in Chicago and Newark, Ohio, in 2011.
Under the OSHA “Severe Violator Enforcement Program,” IP is subject to additional inspections and actions, said administration spokesman Edmund Fitzgerald. “We want them to address the issues and correct the hazards,” he said.
In citations filed by OSHA on Tuesday, the IP mill in Ticonderoga also was faulted for not providing Borowski with fire-resistant protective clothing, for improper maintenance of fly ash pollution control equipment so that it introduced oxygen needed for the fire to ignite and for not having an automatic fire control system where Borowski was working to remove and replace burned, smoldering filter bags of combustible fly ash.
The system for collecting fly ash also failed to meet National Fire Protection Association standards and had been inadequately maintained, according to OSHA.
“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.”
IP spokeswoman Donna Wadsworth said the company “worked with OSHA in facilitating their investigation and will continue to work with them as we review their findings. Losing our colleague was a devastating loss and a tragic reminder of why we are committed to safety in everything we do. Ensuring the safety and well-being of our team members is a core value and our top priority.”
The company has 15 business days from the date of the citations and proposed penalties to comply, request an informal conference with OSHA’s area director, or contest the findings before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.