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OSHA Found Inadequate Training Contributed to Worker Death


Saturday, August 04, 2018

Biomass power plants, a warren of hazardous machinery, can be dangerous places to work, especially if care is not taken to ensure a safe working environment. This was made tragically clear when a young man was killed while working at Springfield Power last year.

And it could have been prevented had the biomass plant followed proper training procedures for employees and ensured that the plant’s equipment was properly safeguarded, according to a recent finding by the Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration.

Springfield Power, receiving the maximum penalty under OSHA guidelines. in June was fined $125,460 for a slew of safety violations that were uncovered by the agency’s inspectors following the workplace death in November of a recently hired employee.

An investigation by OSHA found 25 safety violations at the Springfield biomass plant, after a 23-year old employee was killed when he was “pulled into a conveyor” during a work shift on November 27, 2017, according to OSHA.

The employee, Dakota (Koty) LaBrecque, of Louden, N.H., had been on the job only a couple weeks, the Valley News reported in a story about the incident.

Springfield Power’s “failure to protect employees resulted in a tragedy that could have been prevented if training was provided and machinery was appropriately guarded,” Rosemarie Cole, OSHA New Hampshire area director, said in a news release.

According to OSHA, agency inspector found that the “conveyor and other machinery lacked required safety guarding and employees were not trained in lockout/tagout procedures to prevent equipment from intentionally starting.”

The regulatory agency further noted that workers were not “issued locks to place on the machines they worked on.” The list of citations included those for “fall hazards, electric shock and arc flash hazards and lack of adequate emergency evacuation, fire prevention and hazardous energy control programs.”

LaBrecque, who graduated from Merrimack High School in Concord in 2013, had previously been employed as a landscape worker before joining Springfield Power, according to an obituary in the Concord Monitor.

Springfield Power, along with a sister biomass plant in Whitefield, N.H., is owned by Mount Laurel, N.J.-based EWP Renewable Corp., an affiliate of the Ulsan, South Korea-based Korea East-West Power co. EWP also owns a biomass plant and two natural gas-fired power plants in California.

EWP did not respond to a message seeking comment.

— John Lippman