Amputations bring large fines in GA and DE

Two food processing companies face major fines from the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) for failing to protect workers from equipment that led to amputations.

An Atlanta-based poultry processor will pay $608,000 in penalties, negotiated down from the originally proposed fine of $1.3 million following a series of accidents that caused three workers to suffer amputations. Cagle’s is being cited for numerous willful and serious violations at its Macon, GA, facility. An employee lost part of a finger while cleaning moving equipment in 1996, and two other workers lost a finger and a foot in 1995. All of the accidents were traced to violations of the lockout/tagout regulation.

Cagle’s employs 900 workers at the Macon plant and has about 3,550 employees nationwide. The company produces deboned chicken and chicken parts.

A report by OSHA claims Cagle’s managers knew of the hazards posed by workers servicing machinery that had not been locked out and that they failed to respond to employee concerns. Originally, OSHA assessed a fine of $55,000 for each of 21 instances in which employees were assigned to clean machinery but were not trained to perform lockout and did not have locks to use. An additional $110,000 in fines was assessed because equipment was not locked out (even if the workers knew they should have) and for employees locking out for other employees. A fundamental part of the lockout/tagout rule is that employees must lock out for themselves.

The total fines were reduced from $1.3 million to $608,000 because Cagle’s agreed to implement a substantial hazard abatement program. Among other measures, Cagle’s agreed to begin a monthly inspection of lockout/tagout procedures, hire a full-time safety training coordinator at the Macon plant, and contract with a safety consultant who will provide guidance on lockout/tagout procedures.

In the other case, a company in Clayton, DE, is facing a $498,000 fine for refusing to correct job safety hazards that led to two amputations in 1996.

With headquarters in Hanover, PA, Hanover Foods is a food manufacturer that prepares and packages frozen vegetables and dinner entrees. The company employs 4,000 workers nationwide and 400 people at the Clayton plant during busy production periods. Hanover Foods is being cited for more than 30 violations, including failure to properly safeguard machinery, failure to inspect and test safety relief valves, and failure to train employees in safety and health procedures.

OSHA cited the company for safety violations in 1994 and each year since. Two employees suffered amputations last year, prompting the agency to issue $174,000 in fines for hazards discovered in previous inspections and not corrected. The company also was fined $245,000 for six willful violations, $44,000 for 13 serious violations, and $46,500 for a repeat violation.

Like Cagle’s, Hanover Foods also can contest the proposed fines and bargain for a lower settlement.