Fed Report: Jorg Borowski’s Death “Preventable”

Jorg with his girlfriend Donna Rice Mellan.

Jorg with his girlfriend Donna Rice Mellan.

The death of Jorg Borowski, the Schroon Lake man who died from massive burns after an accident at the International Paper plant in Ticonderoga in January, could have been prevented, according to a government investigation.

Jorg , 57, died from the injuries he received when he was working in the power plant, cleaning out burned filter bags full of combustible fly ash which ignited.

He was the long time boyfriend of Donna Rice Mellan. Many local and seasonal Schroon Lakers know Donna from the Upstate Agency and her Schroon Lake Massage and Wellness Center.

The report, released Tuesday by the Federal Government’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration's (OSHA)  Albany office, was extremely critical of the company and its failure to offer protection to employees.

 “While nothing can return this man to his daughter and co-workers, the company can and must take prompt and effective steps to ensure that this never happens again," said Kim Castillon, head of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration's (OSHA) Albany office. 

“This worker’s death was preventable. International Paper knew of these hazards and deficiencies and did not address them,” said Castillon.

More from NCPR: The incident prompted an investigation by OSHA, part of the U.S. Department of Labor. Last week, OSHA cited International Paper for two willful violations, one repeated violation, and three serious violations of workplace safety standards.

According to Federal inspectors, Borowski was not trained about the hazards of the job he was doing and he was not given "necessary fire-resistant clothing." They also found the fly ash system in the mill's power plant was deficient, poorly maintained, and had not been properly inspected. 

As a consequence, the Federal government has placed IP on a "Severe Violator Enforcement Program," which will means stepped-up inspections and oversight. According to a strongly-worded statement, the program is aimed at, “Recalcitrant employers who endanger workers." International Paper also faces roughly $211,000 in proposed fines.

International Paper spokeswoman Donna Wadsworth told the Albany Times-Union the company, "Worked with OSHA in facilitating their investigation." Wadsworth called Borowski's death "a devastating loss" and said, “IP is committed to safety in everything we do."