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OHSA Cites Pennsylvania Insulation Manufacturing Facility for 7 Safety Hazards

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The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has cited an insulation manufacturing company in Pennsylvania for safety violations. The company now faces $66,000 in penalties for exposing workers to combustible dust and other hazards.

OSHA Issues 7 Safety Citations to GreenFiber

U.S. GreenFiber LLC has at least eight manufacturing plants in the U.S., including the one in Laflin that was recently cited. According to the company’s website, they are one of the leading home insulation manufacturers, with products made from 85 percent recycled paper fiber, or cellulose. The insulation is advertised as being energy efficient, built to help homeowners save energy whether insulating a new home or upgrading an existing one.

OSHA received a complaint about the Laflin, facility in October 2015, and conducted an investigation. They determined that the company had failed to protect employees from “deflagration, fire and spark hazards by ensuring dust-handling equipment had explosion protection systems such as deflagration venting, automatic suppression and fire/detection systems,” according to Times Leader. (Deflagration is a type of combustion that burns away a substance.)

In other words, the company didn’t properly protect employees from explosions, leaving them at risk of injuries caused by fire, deflagration and combustible dust.

OSHA issued the following citations:

  • One willful
  • Four serious
  • Two other-than-serious

Investigators also reported the following:

  • accumulations of cellulose fiber dust on equipment surfaces
  • unguarded platforms
  • lack of fire-extinguisher training
  • employees exposed to crushing hazards
  • employees wearing dust mask respirators without proper training
  • employees working with hazardous chemicals without proper training

When the company received the citations, they had 15 days to comply, request a conference with OSHA, or contest the findings.

GreenFiber Cited Once Before in 2010

This isn’t the first time GreenFiber has been cited by OSHA. In 2010, investigators found similar hazards at the company’s Ohio plant. Mark Stelmack, OSHA’s area director in Wilkes-Barre, told Citizens Voice, “Once again, we have found this company continues to jeopardize its workers’ safety by failing to implement necessary safeguards. This disregard of safety standards is unacceptable.”

There are other issues with the plant as well. The Luzerne County Planning and Zoning Office stated that the company never applied for an occupancy permit, which it was supposed to do.

Combustible Dust a Serious Explosion Hazard

Combustible dust is a serious safety hazard because it can lead to explosions. In 1999, for example, three people were killed and 9 injured in a fire and explosion that occurred in a foundry in Massachusetts, after a fire in a shell molding machine went into the ventilation system ducts. There, it fed on deposits of phenol formaldehyde resin dust providing fuel for a second explosion that lifted the roof.

In 2003, seven people were killed and 37 injured when a small fire from an unattended oven ignited a dust cloud created by nearby line cleaning, creating a cascade of dust explosions.

In these cases and more, all that’s needed to create a very dangerous situation is combustible dust (which serves as fuel for a fire), a source of heat, and oxygen. A dust cloud can be ignited, resulting in an explosion, or an initial explosion can lead to multiple explosions because of combustible dust.

Industries at risk of combustible dust explosions include chemical, textiles, metal processing, fertilizer, plastics, rubber, and more. To ensure employee safety, OHSA recommends that manufacturers use proper dust collection systems and filters, minimize the escape of dust from process equipment or ventilation systems, use surfaces that minimize dust accumulation, regularly inspect for dust residues, and use only vacuum cleaners approved for dust collection.