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Halltown official says violations being fixed

September 06, 2000

Halltown official says violations being fixed



By DAVE McMILLION / Staff Writer, Charles Town


HALLTOWN, W.Va. - Plant officials at Halltown Paperboard Co. have spent more than $100,000 to correct safety violations identified at the factory by the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration, the plant manager said Wednesday.

Plant officials have worked to reduce noise in a paper drying area and moved electrical controls from areas where there were excessive water leaks, said plant manager Joe Hardy.

While the plant has taken steps to correct violations identified by OSHA, Hardy said he was questioning some of the violations, such as a lack of guardrails around a water holding pond outside the entrance of the plant.

Hardy said guardrails have never been installed around the water holding area at the plant, which is regarded as the oldest continuing manufacturing facility in the state. It makes paperboard that is used for everything from cigar boxes to game boards.

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Halltown has the opportunity to discuss with OSHA any violations it does not agree with, Hardy said. Halltown officials have met with OSHA regulators to talk about the guardrail requirement, but OSHA has not indicated whether it is willing to change its stance on the issue, Hardy said.

Kate Dugan, a spokeswoman with the federal Department of Labor, declined to comment Wednesday.

Although a union official at the plant said some of alleged OSHA violations can be considered nitpicking, Republican Group Inc., which bought the plant in 1995, should have acted more quickly to address safety problems at the plant, said Stanley Fitzwater, president of the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers Local S-87.

The alleged OSHA violations "show the company where they are and where they need to go. My main interest is the safety of the people," said Fitzwater.

Following an OSHA inspection of the plant earlier this year, the federal safety agency issued 35 "serious" violations with a penalty of $100,500. OSHA also issued three repeat violations with a penalty of $27,500.

The violations included a lack of guardrails and inadequate guardrails on open sides of working areas, exposure to excessive noise, incorrect wiring in a flammable storage area and lack of protective equipment for workers handling corrosive material, according to OSHA.

During the OSHA inspection, federal officials noticed excessive water leaking on some controls of electrical equipment, presenting a possible shock hazard, OSHA officials said.

Besides water leaking on the controls, workers sometimes stood in water while operating the controls, Hardy said.

The water leaks have been repaired and the electrical controls have been moved to a different area, Hardy said.

Paper drying cans in the plant can cause excessive noise, Hardy said. The drying cans use large gears and the machines had to be realigned to prevent excessive noise, Hardy said.

Other challenges face the plant. It lost $5.7 million this past fiscal year and a merger that is to take place between Republican Group and a San Francisco company has the 185 workers at the plant concerned for their jobs, according to Hardy and Fitzwater.

Hardy said he has no reason to believe the merger with Premier Construction Products Statutory Trust would affect the local plant, but he can't say for sure.

"I don't think we will be shut down, but you never know," Hardy said.

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