Pendleton files appeal regarding workplace violations

Company seeks dismissal of citations and penalties

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An attorney for Pendleton Woolen Mills, in Washougal, has filed a notice of appeal regarding citations of workplace violations.

Robert Battles, with Lane Powell, of Olympia, filed the notice July 10, seeking dismissal of citations and penalties. Pendleton is also requesting the opportunity for a reassumption conference to discuss the citations and notices of assessment as well as corresponding penalties.

The appeal states that Pendleton disputes all citations including the allegation that it did not have a confined space entry program or that the program was insufficient. It also disputes the citations that allege it did not maintain hazardous chemical and hearing protection programs, as well as adequate lockout/tag out procedures, proper machine guarding, fall protection and forklift training.

“Even if violations occurred, which Pendleton disputes, the alleged citations should not have been issued as serious violations,” the appeal states.

The company also appeals the amount of penalties that have been issued. The total assessed penalty is $66,700.

The State Department of Labor and Industries recently notified Pendleton officials about 21 violations in several categories. An inspection was opened on Dec. 19, 2011.

Elaine Fischer, a spokeswoman for the L&I office in Olympia, said Labor & Industries had never done a comprehensive inspection at Pendleton before.

“My records show seven safety or health inspections going back to 1998, prompted by referrals or complaints,” she said. “Most were partial inspections, where only the area of the mill pertaining to the complaint or referral is inspected. There were no violations cited in six of the seven inspections. In the seventh one, there was one general violation, which has no penalty.”

Charlie Bishop, vice president of mill operations at Pendleton, has said the company’s management and employees fully cooperated with the Department of Labor and Industries during the inspection. That process, which took more than six months, included eight site visits and hundreds of hours of employees’ time.

“The issues raised were immediately addressed and in most cases, resolved,” Bishop said. “We are actively working to resolve any outstanding issues.”

Examples of violations mentioned in the citations include not labeling containers of hazardous chemicals with the name of the chemical and appropriate hazard warnings, not informing and training employees about hazardous chemicals in the workplace and not requiring employees to use hearing protection when their noise exposures exceed an 8-hour time-weighted average of 85 decibels.

The 300,000 square foot mill, located at Two Pendleton Way, has 189 employees. It manufactures wool textiles, for use in blankets, men’s and women’s clothing and upholstery.