CHICAGO – California-based Bridgford Food Processing Corp. was cited for four safety violations at the company’s Chicago meat processing plant after a worker suffered amputations of two fingers while operating a vacuum packaging machine, according to the US Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).

The incident happened on Feb. 7. Another worker suffered deep cuts and tendon damage on four fingers after operating the same machine on Jan. 25, according to the agency. Proposed fines total $184,000.
"Bridgford Food Processing previously was cited for improper lockout procedures and machine guarding. Repeat violations demonstrate a blatant disregard for employee safety and health," said Gary Anderson, OSHA's area director in Calumet City. "Machinery in the food processing industry is inherently dangerous, and the company has an obligation to take necessary precautions to prevent injuries."

OSHA conducted an investigation and found that workers used magnets to override guarding interlock systems on machines. The agency cited Bridgford for not affixing lockout/tagout devices to all energy sources and preventing workers from coming into contact with machines’ points of operation, OSHA said. The violation was deemed willful because the company had done very little to prevent similar incidents from occurring, according to the agency.

Bridgford received citations for two repeat violations for failing to develop and train employees on machine-specific lockout/tagout procedures. OSHA found similar violations in July 2010. The company also was cited for one serious violation for improperly guarding machines.

Bridgford Food Processing was placed on OSHA’s Severe Violator Enforcement Program following citations for willful and repeat safety violations at the Chicago plant, the agency said. Since then, OSHA has cited additional violations at several facilities:

• Citations carrying $118,700 in penalties were issued in March for 22 safety and health violations at the Chicago facility;

• Citations carrying $174,500 in penalties were issued in February for eight safety violations at the facility on Chancellor Row in Dallas; and

• Citations carrying $422,600 in penalties were issued in October 2011 for 27 safety and health violations at the facility on South Good Latimer Expressway in Dallas.

OSHA said the company is contesting all of these citations.