OSHA: Case Farms ignored workplace dangers

by MEAT+POULTRY staff
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WINESBURG, Ohio – A US Dept. of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) investigation of an Ohio poultry processing facility operated by Case Farms Processing Inc. found that the company continued to expose its employees to serious and potential fatal injuries, such as amputation, electrocution and hazardous falls, even after being cited in 2013 that it was doing so.

Case Farms is a supplier of chicken to national fast food and supermarket brands. OSHA said the company has a long history of violating federal worker safety and health standards.

Acting on a referral, OSHA cited the company on Aug. 13 for two willful, 20 repeat, 30 serious and three other-than-serious safety and health violations. OSHA assessed $861,500 in penalties and added the company to the agency’s Severe Violator Enforcement Program.

“Case Farms is an outrageously dangerous place to work. In the past 25 years, Case Farms has been cited for more than 350 safety and health violations,” said David Michaels, Ph.D., assistant secretary of labor for occupational safety and Health. “Despite committing to OSHA that it would eliminate serious hazards, Case Farms continues to endanger the safety and health of its workers. This simply must stop.”

In a statement issued by Case Farms, the company acknowledged that it received citations from OSHA, but that it wasn't appropriate for it to comment on ongoing administrative issues. The company did address the allegations, stating: "We do not agree with the negative characterizations that have been made about our company and our employees. As of today, our Winesburg, Ohio facility has passed the 900,000 employee hours worked milestone without a lost time injury.

"We value our employees and are committed to providing a safe and healthy work
environment. 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," the statement concluded. 

According to OSHA, the February 2015 inspection that resulted in the Aug. 13 citations found:
• Amputation hazards.
• Fall hazards due to non-functioning fall-arrest systems, unprotected platforms and wet work surfaces.
• Lack of personal protective equipment.
• Numerous violations of electrical safety standards.
• Improperly stored oxygen cylinders.
• Lack of emergency eye-wash stations.

Since 1988, OSHA and the Occupational Safety and Health Division of North Carolina’s Department of Labor have inspected the company 66 times at its facilities in North Carolina and Ohio, with citations issued in 42 of those inspections. A majority of the inspections were initiated after worker injuries, complaints or referrals.

In 2013, Case Farms agreed to address safety violations in a settlement agreement with OSHA after being cited for exposing workers to dangerous machinery and other hazards at its Winesburg facility. However, follow-up inspections led to the issuance of citations on May 28, 2015, for one willful violation, four repeat violations, one serious violation, and one other-than-serious violation. The hazards addressed by those citations include failing to ensure machines had safety guards to protect workers and allowing electrical hazards. Case Farms has contested those citations. In addition, OSHA is currently investigating Case Farms facilities in Canton, Ohio, after receiving reports of employee injuries there.

Headquartered in Troutman, NC, Case Farms Processing processes 2.8 million chickens per week at seven facilities in North Carolina and Ohio. It has more than 3,200 employees and produces more than 900 million lbs. of fresh, partially cooked and frozen-for-export poultry products yearly. Its Ohio facilities are located in Canton, Strasburg, Massillon and Winesburg. In North Carolina, Case Farms operates in Dudley, Goldsboro, Mount Olive and Morganton.

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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