A Vermont Occupational Safety and Health Administration inspection of town buildings in August found three violations, including one carrying a penalty of more than $1,800.
The violation stems from the town’s failure to properly guard a saw in the highway maintenance garage. The other violations, both without penalties, involve labeling electric boxes and guarding a generator at the Alder Brooke Pump Station.
Doug Fisher, director of Essex town administrator services, said he presented evidence of corrective actions via a phone conference, which resulted in VOSHA dropping the fine to $1,000.
The inspections took place the week of August 22-26, and included the town offices at 81 Main St., a number of pump stations and the entire highway maintenance complex. After receiving notice of the violations September 30, the town had 20 days to request an informal meeting.
The town is currently processing the payment. Fisher said it’s the first VOSHA inspection of Essex municipal properties he’s seen in his 25 years.
The town’s corrective actions included hiring an electrician to re-label all electrical boxes out of compliance, as well as verify all circuit breakers as a proactive measure. The services cost the town $2,300, Fisher said.
The town’s mechanic also crafted two guards for the saw and generator.
Despite the fines, Essex public works director Dennis Lutz views the inspections positively; extra eyes, like those from VOSHA, help point out issues the town might miss over time, he said.
It’s almost impossible to run an operation at 100 percent compliance, Lutz added.
Still, it works both ways, Lutz said; the town never received the guard when it purchased the saw a few years ago. He hopes VOSHA will contact the manufacturer to address this.
“We’re buying these products under the assumption that it’s a safe product to buy,” he said.
The fine was low compared to other Vermont towns, Lutz said, and while the town would prefer to avoid putting any taxpayer money toward penalties, he was pleased with Essex’s overall performance.
The inspector even mentioned a few employees by name, Lutz said, praising their knowledge and safety attributes.
“I like that, because that tells me the employees themselves have an interest in safety,” Lutz said.