Fish Plant Worker Death Brings Safety Fines

Wednesday, June 11, 2014 @ 03:06 PM gHale

A 35-year-old sanitation supervisor at a New Bedford fish processing plant died Jan. 16, after he ended up caught in the rotating parts of the shucking machine he was cleaning.

Sea Watch International Ltd. is now facing $35,410 in fine for seven serious safety violations, including failure to implement basic safety procedures to protect workers who service or maintain machines, said officials at the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). In addition, a temporary employment agency, Workforce Unlimited to faces $9,000 in fines

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“This worker should not have died. This death was preventable if the company had implemented the required safety practices,” said Brenda Gordon, OSHA’s area director for southeastern Massachusetts. “It is the employer’s responsibility to ensure that all requirements are met and to take effective action to ensure that these hazards, and the dangers they pose to workers, do not occur again.”

The company faces citations for failing to implement lockout/tagout procedures that protect workers who clean machinery. The violations include failure to provide a lockout device; incomplete lockout/tagout procedures; not conducting periodic inspections of these procedures to ensure it had met all requirements, and failure to train all affected sanitation employees in lockout/tagout procedures. OSHA found that plant employees ended up exposed to fall hazards and did not have training in up-to-date chemical hazard communication methods.

OSHA also cited Workforce Unlimited Inc., the Johnston, RI-based temporary employment company that supplied temporary workers to the plant, for three serious violations for lack of lockout/tagout procedures, lack of chemical hazard communication training and for exposing workers to ladder hazards.

Workforce Unlimited Inc. received citations as a joint employer because it had a supervisor on-site with knowledge of the working conditions. A serious violation occurs 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.

Sea Watch employs 15 full-time workers at its New Bedford plant; 185 of the workers at the plant were temporary employees supplied by Workforce Unlimited.

“Host employers need to treat temporary workers as they treat existing employees. Temporary staffing agencies and host employers share joint responsibility for temporary employees’ safety and health. It is essential that both employers and staffing agencies comply with all relevant OSHA requirements,” said Robert B. Hooper, OSHA’s acting regional administrator for New England.

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