OSHA cites RI wood pellet company over 2013 explosion

Federal workplace safety officials are seeking $43,000 in fines from a wood pellet company for alleged violations related to a 2013 explosion and fire.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration announced Monday that it has cited Inferno Wood Pellet Inc. for 11 violations of safety rules at its East Providence plant.

"While no one was killed, the potential for death and serious injury was real, present and preventable. The lack of safeguards allowed the initial fire and explosion to occur and spread in a chain reaction to other equipment and through the plant," said Patrick Griffin, OSHA's area director for Rhode Island. "If this employer had adhered to applicable OSHA and National Fire Protection Association standards, that would have helped prevent the fire and explosion from occurring and spreading."

A worker was injured in the explosion and four-alarm fire on Aug. 20, 2013. Authorities later determined the cause to be combustible wood dust.

Griffin said proper safeguards could have reduced the risk of the fire.

"Combustible wood dust is a byproduct of the manufacturing process, and it is the employer's responsibility to ensure that proper and effective safeguards are in place and in use at all times, so that incidents like this fire and explosion do not occur," Griffin said.

The company has 15 business days to contest the fine or attempt to negotiate a settlement.