WI Paper Mill Fined after Worker Death

Tuesday, April 26, 2016 @ 05:04 PM gHale

A 46-year-old machine operator suffered fatal injuries as he serviced a high-speed conveyor belt in a Ladysmith, WI, paper mill in October, said officials at the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).

At issue was the employer did not ensure equipment ended up powered down and locked out before the worker entered the hazardous area.

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After its investigation into the Oct. 27 incident, OSHA cited Cellu Tissue-City Forest LLC for one willful, one repeat and two serious safety violations on April 21. Cellu operates the Clearwater Paper-Ladysmith mill. The company is facing $119,000 in fines.

In 2012, OSHA cited Cellu for inadequate machine safety procedures at the same facility.

“Workers at the Clearwater Paper mill were exposed to dangerous machine hazards on a daily basis because their employer failed to properly prevent contact with operating machinery,” said Mark Hysell, OSHA’s area director in Eau Claire. “This man’s death is tragic and was preventable. Despite incidents like this one, machine hazards continue to be one of the most frequently cited federal worker safety violations. It takes just minutes to stop and put safety first.”

Investigators found employees at the mill routinely work beneath high-speed conveyor and sheet-fork sections of the wet-lap machine during production mode. Doing so exposes them to the risk of an operating machine pulling them in or a machine part striking them, causing severe or even fatal injuries.

Owned by Cellu Tissue-City Forest LLC, the Clearwater Paper Corp. operates the Ladysmith mill. The mill employs about 81 workers and produces more than 40,000 tons of paper each year for use as paper towels, napkins, bath and facial tissue products.

Based in Spokane, WA, Clearwater is the country’s largest provider of private label tissue to retail grocery chains and a manufacturer of bleached paperboard. The company has an administrative office in Alpharetta, Georgia, and operates manufacturing facilities in Clarkson, WA; Columbia City, OR; Lewiston, ID; Las Vegas, NV; Oklahoma City, OK; Cypress Bend, AR; Shelby, NC; Elwood, IL, and Neenah, WI.

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