Cellu Tissue Corporation-Natural Dam faces a total of $166,700 in proposed fines from the U.S. Labor Department's Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) following an OSHA inspection prompted by a September 2005 fire at the company's Gouverneur, N.Y., paper mill. The tissue maker was cited for a total of 20 alleged willful, serious and repeat violations of workplace safety standards.

OSHA's inspection found that, while the company expected employees to combat fires, it had not established an in-house fire brigade and failed to provide workers with required training, personal protective equipment, self-contained breathing apparatus and medical evaluations. As a result, OSHA has issued a willful citation and fined the company $70,000.

"If you're going to have your employees fight fires, then you must provide them with the training and equipment to do it correctly and safely," said Chris Adams, OSHA's Syracuse area director.

The inspection also identified other hazards at the plant. These included lack of annual fire extinguisher training; failure to inspect lifting devices and crane structures; not cleaning up combustible paper dust; unguarded floor holes and uncovered drains; ladder defects; unsecured gas cylinders; lack of emergency stop devices on paper machines; unguarded machinery, and unlabeled circuit breakers. These conditions resulted in 13 serious citations with $39,000 in proposed penalties.

Finally, $57,700 in fines were proposed for six repeat citations encompassing unguarded open-sided floors and platforms; unguarded belts, pulleys and other moving machine parts; electrical hazards, and lack of stair railings. These items were classified as repeat because OSHA had cited the company in July 2004 for similar hazards at its East Hartford, Conn., plant.

OSHA defines a willful violation as one committed with an intentional disregard of, or plain indifference to, the requirements of the Occupational Safety and Health Act and regulations. A serious citation is issued when death or serious physical harm are likely to result from a hazard about which the employer knew or should have known. A repeat citation is issued when an employer has previously been cited for a substantially similar hazard and that citation has become final.