Fire hazards among $21K in 2018 OSHA violations at North Knoxville recycling plant

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KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) – Records from the United States Department of Labor Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) show the North Knoxville recycling center where a fire broke out on Wednesday was fined last year for multiple violations.

OSHA shows Fort Loudon Waste and Recycling was fined $21,000 in 2018 following inspections in January and February for 19 different violations.

RelatedDay two: Fire at North Knoxville recycling plant contained, but continues to burn

Several of the violations have to do with employee safety and hazard training while some deal with electric equipment and wiring in locations near flammable or combustible materials. Another violation deals with “the unexpected energization or start up of the machines or equipment, or release of stored energy, [which] could harm employees.”

Other violations include placement and availability of fire extinguishers, unsanitary restrooms, and vermin.

Serious violations include safety and health hazards. One violation in January cited the plant for “explosive plastic dust” found on the rafters, floors, and area near some machinery. Photos attached to the inspection report showed that specific violation. 

Another “serious violation”, as classified in an inspection report provided by TOSHA, storage areas weren’t kept free of materials that constituted hazards of tripping, fire, explosion, or pest harrborage.  

According to a TOSHA administrator, Steve Hawkins, part of the $21,000 in fines has not been paid within 6 months and has been referred to the Attorney General for collection.

Firefighters have continued to make headway overnight and in the morning hours on fighting the massive fire that broke out at the plant Wednesday afternoon.

A spokesperson with the Knoxville Fire Department says it’s believed the fire started when a spark from a forklift or similar equipment ignited compressed paper.

The fire has been contained to around two acres. Around 100 homes near the facility remain evacuated, not due to fire but because of proximity to potentially harmful smoke.

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