OSHA: International Paper failed to give employee fire-resistant clothing - his death was 'preventable'

By Jenny Eagle

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Occupational safety and health

Picture credit: Schroon Lakers tribute page Jorg Borowski with his girlfriend Donna Rice Mellan FaceBook
Picture credit: Schroon Lakers tribute page Jorg Borowski with his girlfriend Donna Rice Mellan FaceBook
International Paper failed to supply a 57-year-old employee with fire-resistant clothing and did not train him and other staff on the physical hazards of combustible fly ash, according to a report by the US Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).

An inspection of the firm’s Ticonderoga, New York paper mill following the incident which led to the death of Jorg Borowski, in January, also found the system for conveying and collecting fly ash was deficient.

'Did not comply with National Fire Protection Association standards'

It had not been inspected for defects, did not comply with National Fire Protection Association standards and had not been maintained adequately.

This worker's death was preventable. International Paper knew of these hazards and deficiencies and did not address them​,” said Kim Castillon, area director Albany, OSHA.

While nothing can return this man to his daughter and co-workers, the company can and must take prompt and effective steps to ensure that this never happens again​.”

OSHA has now placed International Paper in its Severe Violator Enforcement Program, which calls for targeted follow-up inspections to ensure compliance with the law. The firm also faces $211,000 in proposed fines.

At the time of the incident, general mechanic was removing burned filter bags of combustible fly ash dust from a dust collector in the facility's power plant and replacing them with new bags when the fly ash ignited. He sustained severe burns as a result and subsequently died.

OSHA cited the paper manufacturer on July 22 for two wilful, one repeated and three serious vilations of workplace safety standards.

The inspection found the company's procedures for isolating the dust conveyor system's power source during maintenance activities were incomplete and it failed to complete annual evaluations to ensure procedures were effective.

'A valued and respected member of the Ticonderoga mill family'

The company has 15 business days from receipt of its citations and proposed penalties to comply, request an informal conference with OSHA's area director, or contest the findings before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.

A spokeswoman for International Paper said at the time it was ‘deeply saddened by this loss’.

“Jorg was a valued and respected member of the Ticonderoga mill family. Our heartfelt sympathy goes out to his family, friends and mill team members.”

There are 620 employees at the Ticonderoga mill and the mill produces 850 tons of paper a day. 

At the time of his death, the Schroon Lakers local news blog posted a tribute to Borowski, saying; ‘Today, many Schroon Lakers are mourning the tragic loss of Jorg Borowski​.

Jorg, who lost a courageous battle last night from burns he received in a fire at the International Paper Plant in Ti, had deep connections to Schroon and was a friend to many​.

Our heart goes out to all of Jorg’s friends and loved ones, especially to his long time girlfriend,  Donna Rice Mellan​.

Many seasonal Schroon Lakers may know Donna from the Upstate Agency and her Schroon Lake Massage and Wellness Center​.

He gave one hell of a fight but unfortunately my love Jorg Borowski passed away at 11:45pm surrounded by family and friends. Thank you all for your prayers and kind words. I love you baby!” Donna posted on her Facebook page.​’

OSHA has opened investigations at several other International Paper locations, including one that followed a fatality at a plant in Georgia where maintenance worker, Ricky Salter, died in August last year.

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