Tyson Foods Faces Safety Fines

Wednesday, December 18, 2013 @ 03:12 PM gHale

Once again, Tyson Foods Inc. is facing fines for workplace safety violations, this time at its Hutchinson, KS, prepared foods manufacturing plant after a worker’s hand was severed by an unguarded conveyor belt, said officials at the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).

“Removing guards and failing to train workers in proper lockout procedures is inexcusable,” said Judy Freeman, OSHA’s area director in Wichita. “Tyson Foods failed to ensure safety procedures, demonstrating a lack of commitment to workplace safety and health and resulting in a tragic injury.”

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Tyson is facing $147,000 in fines at this plant. Meanwhile, in November Tyson’s Buffalo manufacturing plant ended up getting $121,720 in fines for repeat and serious violations of workplace safety standards.

Springdale, AR-based Tyson Foods is one of the world’s largest processors and marketers of chicken, beef, pork and prepared foods. Approximately 115,000 workers work at more than 400 facilities and offices nationwide and overseas, with 150 workers at the Hutchinson facility.

OSHA began its inspection upon learning of the amputation, which occurred June 17 when four workers were cleaning conveyor equipment at the end of their shift. Guarding on the conveyor ended up removed, exposing workers to rotating parts. A worker’s frock and the employee’s arm ended up pulled into moving gears of a conveyor that had not been locked out to prevent unintentional operation.

Two willful violations involve failing to train workers on lockout/tagout procedures and to lock out equipment to prevent the unintentional operation of equipment and exposure to amputation hazards. A willful violation is one committed with intentional, knowing or voluntary disregard for the law’s requirement, or with plain indifference to employee safety and health.

One serious violation involves fall hazards when workers ascend the upper platform work area in two separate plant locations. The company failed to provide fixed stairs to reach the work areas. An OSHA violation is serious if death or serious physical harm could result from a hazard an employer knew or should have known existed.

An other-than-serious violation involves lack of legible markings on forklift levers. 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.

Due to the nature and severity of violations, the company has been placed in OSHA’s Severe Violator Enforcement Program, which mandates targeted follow-up inspections to ensure compliance with the law. OSHA’s SVEP focuses on recalcitrant employers that endanger workers by committing willful, repeat or failure-to-abate violations. Under the program, OSHA may inspect any of the employer’s facilities if it has reasonable grounds to believe there are similar violations.

The Hutchinson plant has undergone OSHA inspections five times in the past 10 years, resulting in seven violations.

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