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MOSH checks company's safety record

June 29, 1999|By BRUCE HAMILTON

Maryland Occupational Safety and Health inspectors Tuesday were investigating three separate accidents in which three workers were injured last weekend at the Maryland Paper Co.

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"There is a double investigation going on," said Joseph Seidel, a Maryland Occupational Safety and Health administrator.

MOSH inspectors were looking into separate incidents, one on Saturday afternoon and one on Sunday afternoon. In a third incident later Sunday, two workers were burned.

It was the fifth time MOSH has inspected Maryland Paper in the past seven years. The state agency has fined the company a total of $16,406 in its 10 years of operation in Washington County.

Since 1992, the company has been cited for 20 alleged "serious violations," three other violations and a fatal accident in September 1994 in which a 19-year-old worker was crushed, according to state records.

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Maryland Paper's president and CEO said Tuesday the two-story plant is "absolutely" a safe place to work.

"We just celebrated 100 days without an accident," Mathew Chakola said.

The plant, which employs about 100 people, is in the 70/81 Industrial park north of Williamsport. The company makes dry roofing felt from recycled newspapers and cardboard containers.

The past violations were not serious, and involved things such as the need to erect a guardrail or requiring contractors to wear hardhats, Chakola said.

The company has done whatever the state required and strives to keep its workers safe, Chakola said. "We just want to do what is right and go on with life," he said.

At about 1:01 p.m. Saturday, a worker's hand was caught in a paper rewinder, according to rescue officials. By the time an ambulance arrived minutes later, the man had pulled his hand free without serious injury.

"Our production manager is investigating what caused him to put his fingers inside," said Chakola.

At 12:12 p.m. Sunday, a 36-year-old man was taken by ambulance to Washington County Hospital for a cut on his ear and a steam burn, according to rescue officials.

The mechanic was adjusting a valve when the stem broke and struck him, according to Chakola. He said the man spent 20 minutes at the hospital and returned to work.

At about 5:06 p.m. Sunday, a boiler exploded, burning two workers who were investigating the odor of smoke.

Terry Hovermale was treated for minor burns at the hospital and was released Monday.

The second worker, Monteell Friend, was flown to Bayview Hospital Burn Center in Baltimore, where he remained Tuesday. His condition had been upgraded from critical to serious.

Chakola said the boiler had been inspected recently by an insurance company and is operated only by properly licensed people. Chakola said he did not know how the accident happened.

State fire marshals estimated the blast caused about $300,000 worth of damage. It was unclear whether a fireball erupted or a steam explosion occurred within the boiler, the State Fire Marshal's Office said.

The most recent MOSH inspection cited Maryland Paper for "general requirements for fire prevention," Seidel said.

The seven alleged violations for which citations were issued Sept. 4, 1997, pertain to "cutting and welding in an enclosed area" as well as having combustible materials where they were likely to ignite, Seidel said.

MOSH enforces the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration program, which requires that all employers, including towns, provide a safe and healthy workplace.

The damaged boiler was working Tuesday, Chakola said.

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