DALLAS – A gruesome employee injury led federal workplace safety inspectors to discover the nation’s largest meat and poultry processor endangered workers by exposing them to amputation hazards, high levels of carbon dioxide and peracetic acid without providing personal protective equipment.
Responding to a report of a finger amputation at the Tyson Foods Inc. chicken processing facility in Center, Texas, U.S. Department of Labor Occupational Safety and Health Administration inspectors identified two repeated and 15 serious violations. The company faces $263,498 in proposed fines.
The investigation determined the employee suffered an amputation when his finger became stuck in an unguarded conveyor belt as he worked in the debone area and tried to remove chicken parts jammed in the belt.
OSHA inspectors also found more than a dozen serious violations of workplace safety, including failing to ensure proper safety guards on moving machine parts, allowing carbon dioxide levels above the permissible exposure limit, failing to provide personal protective equipment and not training employees on hazards associated with peracetic acid. Used as a disinfectant, the acid can cause burns and respiratory illness if not handled safely.
“Tyson Foods must do much more to prevent disfiguring injuries like this one from happening,” said Dr. David Michaels, Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health. “As one of the nation’s largest food suppliers, it should set an example for workplace safety rather than drawing multiple citations from OSHA for ongoing safety failures.”
Inspectors also found employees exposed to slip-and-fall hazards due to a lack of proper drainage, trip-and-fall hazards caused by recessed drains and fire hazards resulting from of improper stored compressed gas cylinders. The inspection falls under OSHA’s Regional Emphasis Program for Poultry Processing Facilities.
OSHA cited the company for repeated violations for not making sure employees used appropriate eye or face protection when exposed to eye or face hazards. The agency cited Tyson for a similar violation in a 2012 investigation at its Carthage facility. The company also failed to separate compressed gas cylinders of oxygen and acetylene while in storage – a violation for which OSHA cited the company in 2013 at its Albertville, Alabama, facility.
Headquartered in Springdale, Arkansas, Tyson is the world’s largest meat and poultry processing company. With more than $40 billion in annual sales, the company produces more than 68 million pounds of meat per week. It has 15 business days from receipt of its 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.
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