Safety Fines Mount for Chicken Processor

Monday, December 14, 2015 @ 05:12 PM gHale

Inspections of Case Farms’ processing facilities in Ohio have resulted in an additional $462,000 in penalties for deficiencies in ammonia refrigeration systems at two of the company’s Ohio facilities.

The leading supplier of fast food and supermarket chicken racked up more than $1.87 million in fines from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) this year for exposing workers to multiple safety and health violations.

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OSHA cited the company for 11 repeated, four serious and two other-than-serious violations on Dec. 1 at Case Farms’ Winesburg, OH, plant. Proposed penalties total $308,000. The company’s Canton, OH, facility faces an additional $154,000 in penalties after OSHA cited it for five repeated and three serious violations Dec. 1.

“Case Farms needs to protect its workers. Period,” said Dr. David Michaels, assistant secretary of labor for occupational safety and health. “The company has a 25-year track record of failing to comply with federal workplace safety standards. OSHA will remain vigilant until the company keeps its workers safe by making needed improvements to equipment, procedures and training.”

OSHA cited Case Farms in 2011 for many of the same violations. The agency’s follow-up inspection found 16 repeated and five serious violations of process safety management procedures for ammonia refrigeration systems used in Canton and Winesburg. Inspectors found the company lacked clear, written operating procedures, failed to test and inspect systems and did not provide adequate training for workers.

Case Farms has more than 10,000 pounds of ammonia in its refrigeration system at each plant. Exposure to ammonia can cause serious respiratory illness, and the accidental release of ammonia from pressurized pipes and vessels may have catastrophic consequences.

OSHA also determined the company failed to do the following:
• Perform annual bloodborne pathogen refresher training
• Provide hepatitis B vaccine for workers exposed to bloodborne pathogens
• Store gas cylinders properly

In 2013, Case Farms arranged to address safety violations in a settlement agreement with OSHA after an inspection found workers exposed to dangerous machinery and other hazards at its Winesburg plant. However, follow-up inspections led to the issuance of citations on May 28, 2015, and on Aug. 13, 2015.

In August, OSHA placed Case Farms in the agency’s Severe Violator Enforcement Program after it assessed $861,500 in penalties following inspections at the company’s Winesburg facility.

OSHA cited Case Farms in September 2015 for exposing workers to amputation, fall, electrical and other serious hazards after two workers suffered amputations while they cleaned machines at the Canton facility. The agency proposed penalties of $424,600 as a result of those inspections. Case Farms has contested all citations issued.

OSHA has an open investigation at the Winesburg facility involving record-keeping issues and employee exposure to campylobacter bacteria, which humans can contract by touching animal feces.

Headquartered in Troutman, NC, Case Farms 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 pounds of fresh, partially cooked and frozen-for-export poultry products yearly. Its Ohio facilities are in Canton, Strasburg, Massillon and Winesburg. In North Carolina, Case Farms operates in Dudley, Goldsboro, Mount Olive and Morganton.