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Local man dies in industrial accident at Pratt
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A Covington man, an employee at Pratt Industries, died Wednesday evening after getting caught in a conveyer belt at the company’s bio-energy plant.

Charles Alan Lemaster, 31, reportedly appeared to be clearing debris below a feeder belt that carried wood chips into the gasifier when his left hand and arm got caught and he was pulled into the belt structure. When co-workers found Lemaster around 6:30 p.m. and called first responders, he was reportedly already unresponsive. He was pronounced dead at the scene, according to Rockdale Deputy Coroner Mike Siebert.

OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) inspectors are on the scene conducting an investigation. The energy plant has been shut down until the investigation is complete, and power for Pratt’s operations is being supplied by an auxiliary boiler.

“Our deepest sympathies go out to the family,” said a Pratt spokesman. “This is a very sad day for all of our employees.”
He declined further comment pending the OSHA investigation.

Lemaster had just started working at the Pratt Conyers plant recently. He was a military veteran, husband and father of two children.

The medical examiner from DeKalb County, from which Rockdale County contracts medical examiner services, was conducting an autopsy and toxicology tests as of Thursday. The Rockdale Coroners’ Office is also helping in the investigation. Toxicology results can take six to eight weeks to come back, said Siebert.

Conyers police determined the incident to be an accident and turned over their findings to OSHA inspectors and the medical examiner, said a CPD spokesperson, crime analyst Kim Lucas.

According to an OSHA spokesperson, it can take up to six months for OSHA to issue a final report, and no comments are made on the case until the final report is given.

A planned OSHA inspection of the Conyers plant in May 2013 found no violations. The plant is under a National Emphasis Program on Amputations, which targets “workplaces with machinery and equipment that cause (or are capable of causing) amputations,” according to OSHA’s website.

In 2011, the Target Container, Inc. box plant in Atlanta owned by Pratt received three citations, including one for “general machine guarding hazards rotating chuck on drill press.”

In 2008, Pratt’s East Point recycling plant was cited by OSHA for a violation of “point of operation guarding on machinery or equipment” and “confined space danger signs” regulations.

Pratt, the U.S. branch of Australia-based Visy Industries, employs about 400 people at its 114-acre Conyers campus off Sigman Road, first built in 1995.

The campus recently was expanded with a 9- megawatt gasification energy plant, which consumes biowaste and paper waste from the company’s paper mill, corrugator and box-making plants. A $8 million to $10 million recycling facility and solid waste collection transfer point are also in the works, slated to be finished in 2015.