A fatal accident at Cheney Pulp and Paper Company in Franklin this week has spurred a new investigation into the 75-year-old business.
The company is not unfamiliar to investigators with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, who reported nearly 30 workplace safety violations there in a 2010 inspection. OSHA’s Cincinnati Area Director Bill Wilkerson said, “That is a rather large number,” referring to the previous report.
According to online records, 18 of those violations were labeled “serious” and one was labeled “willful”, meaning the company was aware but ignored certain regulations. Wilkerson said he couldn’t comment on those past violations but Franklin Police Chief Russ Whitman said there had not been an accident at the plant since 1934.
OSHA’s current investigation into Cheney is related to the accidental death of employee Terry Ray, 48, who was killed Tuesday when he was crushed by equipment. Investigator Doyle Burke with the Warren County Coroner’s Office said Ray was using a Bobcat skid-steer vehicle to unload a pulp dryer when he was apparently caught by a moving piece of the dryer.
Burke said the physical autopsy of Ray’s remains is finished and it confirmed that the accident was not related to a medical episode. Ray suffered devastating physical injuries, leading the cause of death to be blunt force trauma. “We are awaiting a toxicology report,” Burke added.
The OSHA investigation may take two to three months according to Wilkerson, who said “It’s a long process.” The organization’s Cincinnati office handles a 20 county area and sees around ten fatal workplace accidents per year, according to Burke’s estimation. He said in this case it’s too early to comment on whether Ray’s accident was caused by operator error or faulty machinery.
Employees at Cheney declined to comment on the investigation. Wilkerson said they will begin talking with company officials Friday.
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