OSHA fines meat plant for 'endangering workers'

by Bryan Salvage
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CHICAGO – The US Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has issued a Bridgford Foods Processing Corp. facility in Chicago 10 safety citations for failing to implement and provide training for workers on lockout/tagout procedures, thereby exposing them to energized equipment. The meat processing plant is facing proposed penalties totaling $212,000.

"By failing to train employees and enforce lockout/tagout procedures, Bridgford Foods placed employees in danger of serious injury from equipment that was not properly de-energized," said Gary Anderson, OSHA's area director in Calumet City, Ill.

As a result of a July 2010 OSHA inspection, Bridgford Foods Processing has been issued one willful citation, with a proposed penalty of $70,000, for allegedly allowing workers to remove a shovel stuck in an auger screw conveyor without locking or tagging out the auger, placing employees in danger of the machine operating while they worked to remove the shovel. A willful violation exists when an employer has demonstrated either an intentional disregard for the requirements of the law or plain indifference to employee safety and health.

Bridgford also has been issued six repeat citations, with proposed fines of $135,000, for having locked exit doors, failing to provide lockout/tagout or electrical safety training, failing to provide a load backrest extension on a powered industrial truck to minimize the hazard of material falling and failing to specifically outline energy control procedures. OSHA issues a repeat citation when an employer previously has been cited for the same or a similar violation of a standard, regulation, rule or order at any other facility in federal enforcement states within the last five years.

Two serious citations have also been issued for failing to perform periodic energy-control inspections and to maintain unobstructed exit routes. Those citations carry penalties of $7,000. An OSHA violation is serious when there is substantial probability that death or serious physical harm could result from a hazard about which the employer knew or should have known.

One other-than-serious citation has been issued for failing to properly illuminate exit signs. An other-than-serious violation is one that has a direct relationship to job safety and health, but probably would not cause death or serious physical harm.

Bridgford Foods' Chicago facility has been inspected by OSHA three times since November 2007, resulting in 29 health and safety citations, OSHA said. The company is based in Anaheim, Calif., and also operates two factories in Dallas, Texas, and one in Statesville, N.C.

“Our only comment at this time would be that the health and safety of our employees is one of the highest priorities of our corporation, and that we have aggressively addressed OSHA's areas of concern as well as our overall safety program,” William L. Bridgford, chairman, told MEATPOULTRY.com.

The company has 15 business days from receipt of its citations and penalties to comply, request an informal conference with OSHA's area director or contest the findings before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.
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