OSHA Investigating Quad/Graphics Fire

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The Occupational Safety and Health Administration said yesterday that it is investigating a fire at the Quad/Graphics printing plant in Lomira, WI, that killed a cleaning worker and burned about 30,000 pallets of paper.

A spokesman for the agency confirmed that an investigation into possible work safety or health hazards at the plant has begun but did not disclose further details. OSHA has six months from the start of the investigation to issue a citation or close the case.

Representatives of Quad/Graphics did not return calls for comment yesterday.

The fire, which caused a 10-story automated storage building to collapse, continues to smolder and could take a full week to completely douse, according to wire service reports. The storage building contained magazine and catalog pages that were awaiting compilation and binding.

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel has reported that catalogers L.L. Bean, Cabela's and Reliable Office Supplies had pages in the storage area at the time of the fire. Representatives of all three were not immediately available late yesterday.

In a statement yesterday, Quad/Graphics said that the production section of the Lomira plant was unaffected by the fire and is in full operation. The plant, along with other facilities in the Quad/Graphics network, is working to replace the product lost in the blaze.

According to the Associated Press, fire investigators have determined that the blaze started when a piece of automated racking equipment collapsed, causing a portion of the storage structure to fall and igniting a fire. Investigators won't release an official cause of the fire until a pile of paper measuring 30 feet in height and 500 feet in length ceases to burn, allowing them to finish their assessment of the blaze.

About 70 volunteer firefighters from area fire companies are working to put out what is left of the blaze. A total of 200 firefighters and rescue personnel from 25 departments helped put out the initial blaze. Quad/Graphics has promised to compensate the volunteers for wages lost from their regular jobs while fighting the fire, according to the Associated Press.

The one fatality in the fire was Keith Freiberg, 22, of Fond du Lac, WI, who died when a piece of the collapsing structure fell on a vehicle in which he was a passenger. Freiberg was an employee of Aero Building Maintenance.

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