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Authorities Clamp Down on Tyson after Worker Loses Hand

18 December 2013

US - US meat and poultry processing giant Tyson Foods has been placed on the US Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration Severe Violator Enforcement Program following four breaches of safety regulations.

The company has also been fined $147,000 for the four safety violations at the Hutchinson prepared foods manufacturing plant in which a worker's hand was severed by an unguarded conveyor belt.

"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."

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 was removed, exposing workers to rotating parts.

A worker's frock and the employee's arm were then 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.

OSHA has proposed fines of $147,000.

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 been inspected by OSHA five times in the past 10 years, resulting in seven violations.

Tyson Foods, headquartered in Springdale, Arkansas, is one of the world's largest processors and marketers of chicken, beef, pork and prepared foods.

Approximately 115,000 workers are employed at more than 400 plants and offices nationwide and overseas, with 150 workers at the Hutchinson facility.

The company has 15 business days from receipt of the citations to comply, request an informal conference with OSHA's area director, or contest the citations and penalties before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.

TheMeatSite News Desk

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