Safety Report: Oscar Mayer Faces Violations

Wednesday, September 28, 2011 @ 12:09 PM gHale

The Oscar Mayer Madison, WI, meat packing plant is facing serious safety violations for potentially exposing workers to hazardous chemicals.

The company faces citations for 13 violations, 12 of which investigators described as “serious,” said officials from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).

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Oscar Mayer, a subsidiary of Kraft, didn’t do enough to prevent workers from exposure to the chemicals, failed to put guardrails to keep employees safe from falling hazards and had improper guards on some machines, OSHA said.

The safety agency wants to fine Oscar Mayer $69,500 for the violations. The company must fix all of the problems by Oct. 6, and it has until then to contest them.

OSHA officials said they inspected facilities owned by Kraft Foods Inc. more than 100 times nationwide in the past five years, including eight times in Madison. OSHA cited the company in 2002 for process safety management violations and failing to control hazardous energy after a worker died following exposure to anhydrous ammonia at the Wisconsin plant in 2001.

The most recent inspection identified problems in the company’s process safety management program, which is a set of procedures employers need to follow to address dangers associated with large amounts of hazardous chemicals. Nine of the violations involve failing to comply with the procedures.

The three other violations involve failing to provide guardrails to protect workers. A serious violation occurs when there is a good chance that death or serious physical harm could result from a danger that the employer should have known about.

The facility also received a citation for not following process safety management standards. This type of violation, called an “other-than-serious violation,” is one that has a direct relationship to job safety, but probably wouldn’t cause death or serious physical harm.

The company cares about the safety and well-being of its employees, said a Kraft Foods spokeswoman.

“We are committed to having strong safety protocols and programs in place that include worker participation,” said Joyce Hodel, of Kraft Foods corporate affairs.

“We respect OSHA and appreciate their expertise and insights. We have fully cooperated throughout their investigation. We take this matter very seriously.”

Hodel said that the company has made changes in the areas OSHA pointed out, and will review the documents and make additional changes as needed.

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