08-21 Pike plant

A truck prepares to receive a load of asphalt at the Pike Industries plant in Northfield on Aug. 15. OSHA has confirmed that it is investigating an accident that reportedly left a Laconia woman with burns to her arm and both ankles. (Adam Drapcho/The Laconia Daily Sun photo)

NORTHFIELD — The Occupational Safety and Health Administration has confirmed that it is investigating an incident at the Pike Industries asphalt plant in which a Laconia woman said she was burned.

Deb Miner, who along with her husband, Greg, own and operate GSM Paving, said she went to the plant, located on Industrial Drive, off of Route 140, on the morning of Aug. 7. While she was still lining her truck up, the gate of the chute that dispenses asphalt opened, she said, and hot, sticky asphalt spilled onto the roof and hood of her truck, as well as through her windshield.

Miner was able to exit the truck, but not without suffering burns to her right forearm and both of her ankles.

A spokesperson for the federal administration said, responding to an emailed request, “Yes, OSHA opened an inspection at the Pike Industries Plant in Northfield, NH, on August 9, 2019, in response to a report of an employee injury and is also looking into an incident involving asphalt dropped onto a truck.”

The inspection, which could take up to six months, will seek to determine if there were violations of workplace safety standards, in which case OSHA would cite the employer and could propose fines.

Pike Industries has not responded to multiple attempts at getting the company's perspective. Those efforts include in-person visits to both the asphalt plant in Northfield as well as the company headquarters in Belmont, and multiple calls each day, over several days, to the company’s communications director, Junaina Saulat, and to the company’s president, Christian Zimmermann.

On Aug. 15, an anonymous caller told The Laconia Daily Sun that there had just been a similar incident at the facility. When a reporter arrived, a Pike employee who did not give his name said only that there were no injuries, and referred all other questions to company headquarters.

The caller, who said he would be fired if he gave his name, also said that the Aug. 15 incident was the third such accident in as many weeks. In addition to Miner’s incident, the caller said that a Wolcott Construction vehicle had asphalt dumped onto its roof in late July.

A representative from Wolcott declined to confirm or deny whether such an accident took place, saying only, “We have no comment at this time.”

Miner has engaged the services of personal injury attorney Thomas Kiley Jr., to represent her. Asked on Tuesday about his client, Kiley said, “She’s doing OK. She’s still receiving treatment for her burns, out of Mass General.”

Kiley said he has been in contact with Pike’s insurance carrier, but he didn’t know yet what fair compensation for Miner would look like.

“That remains to be seen at this point. It’s too soon to say, without seeing her medical treatment in its totality, as well as her medical endpoint,” Kiley said.

He said he has assisted clients seeking compensation for many other kinds of injury, but never of the kind sustained by Miner.

“The thing that’s amazing to me is that this happened before, and then apparently happened subsequently. She could have been killed,” Kiley said. “It’s certainly a terrifying incident that has both emotional and serious physical tolls.”

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