Case Farms: Employees are our most valuable resource

by Erica Shaffer
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Case Farms counters OSHA's characterization of the company's workplace safety.
Case Farms says it values worker safety, contrary to OSHA's claims.

CANTON, Ohio – Case Farms Processing Inc. took issue with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s characterization of its company as a “severe violator” of workplace safety regulations. The Troutman, NC-based poultry processor is contesting more than $1.4 million in penalties imposed by OSHA for worker safety and health violations at the company’s plant in Canton, Ohio.

“Case Farms received citations from Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA),” the company said in a statement. “While we do not deem it appropriate to comment on ongoing administrative matters, we do not agree with the negative characterizations that have been made about our company and our employees.”

The latest penalties issued by OSHA include 16 violations at Case Farms’ facility in Canton, Ohio. The agency said safety failures resulted in two serious injuries. A 17-year-old worker employed by subcontractor Cal-Clean of Greensboro, NC, had his left leg amputated from the knee while he was cleaning a liver-giblet chiller machine. And a 24-year-old Case Farms employee lost the fingertips of his right middle and ring fingers because the operating parts of a plunger on a fat sucker machine were not prevented from operating during the cleaning process, OSHA said.

“A teenager’s life has been forever altered because of a devastating leg injury just weeks after starting this job. How many injuries will it take before Case Farms stops exposing workers to dangerous machinery parts?” Dr. David Michaels, assistant secretary of labor for occupational safety and health, said in a statement. “OSHA will continue to inspect, monitor and penalize this company until it makes necessary improvements. They need to protect their workers, and they need to do it now.”

But Case Farms countered that its Ohio facilities had received two awards for safety programs and achievements. The North American Meat Institute (NAMI) recognized Case Farms with a Certification of Recognition; and the Stark County Safety Council and Ohio Bureau of Worker’s Compensation acknowledged the company with an achievement award for workplace safety.

“Our employees are our most important resource and we continue to focus on providing a safe and healthy work environment,” the company said. “The citations are being reviewed and we will work with OSHA, as we have in the past, to address the concerns outlined in the citations.”

OSHA said two other inspections remain open at Case Farms’ Canton facility. In June, the agency opened an investigation into deficiencies in the plant’s ammonia refrigeration system. And in July, OSHA began investigating allegations that workers were experiencing symptoms of campylobacter infection, a foodborne illness.

OSHA previously cited Case Farms on Aug. 13 for two willful, 20 repeat, 30 serious and three other-than-serious safety and health violations at the company’s facility in Winesburg, Ohio.

Case Farms has facilities in Canton, Strasburg, Massillon and Winesburg, Ohio. The company’s North Carolina operations are in Dudley, Goldsboro, Mount Olive and Morganton. The company processes more than 900 million lbs. of poultry products annually and employs 3,200 workers.

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