Worcester Resources has been fined nearly $24,000 by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration for two recent reporting violations, the latest in a series of penalties levied against the Washington County business.
OSHA fined Worcester $22,101 in April for failing to publicly post a report on work-related injuries and illnesses earlier this year, records show. In addition, OSHA penalized Worcester another $1,878 for failing to submit the injuries information to OSHA in March.
The larger fine was considered a “willful” violation, records show.
Ted Fitzgerald, an OSHA spokesman, said “A willful violation exists under the Occupational Safety and Health Act where an employer has demonstrated either an intentional disregard for the requirements of the Act or a plain indifference to employee safety and health.’’
Fitzgerald said Worcester paid the penalties and made necessary changes to “abate” the violations.
Worcester Resources is best known for its wreath-making business and ties to the nonprofit Wreaths Across America. The Worcester family proposed an ambitious, $1 billion “Flagpole of Freedom” park in Columbia Falls last year, but the project has been on hold.
In a statement to the Associated Press for a story published last week, the Worcester family said the project will move forward — while leaving the door open to changes.
“As we refine our plans,” the statement said, “we remain committed to our vision, and remain more confident than ever that our evolving plan will result in a place where all Americans can celebrate our country’s history of service together.”
Separately, a Worcester spokeswoman told The Maine Monitor the company would decline to comment on the latest OSHA penalties.
In a statement earlier this year, Worcester said federal regulators found “limited violations’’ over the years, and would continue to make improvements. The company added: “We are incredibly proud of how we treat our employees — many are like family to us.’’
In March, The Maine Monitor reported that the company and its affiliates were fined more than $21,000 for 10 labor and safety violations since 2017, records show. Several earlier violations were also for failing to report work-related illness and injuries.
Worcester was fined $11,500 in May 2022 by OSHA for three violations after a COVID outbreak in fall 2021 that infected as many as 80 workers and left one wreath-maker dead, federal records show. OSHA investigators found that Worcester Resources failed to report the death to the agency and disregarded repeated calls to follow reporting standards.
“This violation was an act of simple indifference,” an OSHA investigator wrote of that 2022 reporting rule violation. “This standard has always been a very back-burner issue for the employer as seen in its prior violations and in the manner it has dealt with the citations with OSHA.”
Meanwhile, the town of Columbia Falls continues to work on an overhaul of its land use ordinances, a process that grew out of the Worcester Resources announcement that it wanted to build the “Flagpole of Freedom” development there. Town officials say they hope the proposed ordinance will be ready to go before a town meeting in the fall.