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OSHA Fines Ammo Manufacturer $1.2M For Deadly Explosion

Tue, 10/26/2010 - 4:10am
Holly Ramer, Associated Press Writer

CONCORD, N.H. (AP) — Federal labor officials on Monday proposed fining a gun and ammunition manufacturer $1.2 million, saying that two men who died in an explosion at its northern New Hampshire plant weren't properly trained and had been feeding explosive powder into equipment by hand.

The U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration issued 54 citations against Black Mag LLC, the company that operated the MDM Muzzleloader plant in Colebrook.

Jesse Kennett, 49, of Stratford, and Donald Kendall, 56, of Colebrook, had been on the job only a month when they were killed and another man was injured in the May 14 blast. The explosion heavily damaged half theplant, shook buildings blocks away and forced dozens of homes to be evacuated.

"The fines levied here pale in comparison to the value of the two lives lost," Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis said in a statement. "Nonetheless, this was a tragedy that easily could have been prevented had the employer valued the health and safety of its employees."

The labor department didn't specify what exactly triggered the explosion but described a range of unsafe conditions it said led to the blast.

According to OSHA, the men were making a gun powder substitute known as Black Mag powder when the explosion occurred. It said the company failed to train the workers and chose not to use or install remote starters, isolated operating stations or appropriate shields and barriers. Employees also were not given proper protective gear such as fire resistant clothing and face shields, OSHA said.

"Even after a prior incident in which a worker was seriously injured, and multiple warnings from its business partners and a former employee, this employer still decided against implementing safety measures," said Assistant Labor Secretary David Michaels, referring to the burns to the face and wrist a worker suffered in January when a machine that processes gunpowder flashed in his face. That fire was put out quickly.

The company has 15 days to comply, meet with OSHA or contest the findings. A company official who answered the phone Monday referred calls to the company's lawyer, who did not immediately return a call seeking comment Monday.

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