Region 1 News Release: BOS 2000-177
Friday, December 1, 2000
Contact: Ted Fitzgerald
PHONE: (617) 565-2074
OSHA COMPLETES FOLLOWUP INSPECTION OF TURNER, MAINE, AGRI-BUSINESSES; PROPOSES $125,600 IN FINES AGAINST SUCCESSOR COMPANIES TO FORMER DECOSTER EGG FARM
The U.S. Labor Department's Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has cited four successor companies to the former Decoster Egg Farm of Turner, Maine -- Maine Ag, LLC; Maine Contract Farming, LLC; PFS Loading Services; and Turner Maintenance & Services, Inc., all of Turner -- for alleged Repeat, Serious and Other then Serious violations of the Occupational Safety and Health Act and has proposed combined penalties of $125,600 against the companies.
According to C. William Freeman III, OSHA area director for Maine, the alleged violations were discovered during followup inspections initiated June 12, 2000, to determine the companies' compliance with earlier settlement agreements and correction of hazards cited in earlier inspections.
"While the overall number of citations has declined from previous inspections, these latest inspections still identified several instances where significant safety and health problems reoccurred," said Freeman. "The most serious of these include structurally unsound or unsupported roof rafters and elevated catwalks in outbuildings, failure to ensure that employees knew how to properly clean and disinfect respirators, allowing an employee to use torn gloves while removing chicken carcasses, having employees consume food in unsanitary locations, the use of defective cranes and trucks, contaminated and defective eyewash facilities, and unprotected propane fuel tanks."
"Though progress has been made, such backsliding is indefensible," he said. "These companies must intensify and improve upon their previously stated commitment to provide a safe and healthful work environment."
Maine Contract Farming, LLC, which operates the feed mill, hatchery, brooder barn system and egg laying complex. It faces $77,000 in penalties for five alleged Repeat, five alleged Serious, and one alleged Other than Serious violation for such hazards as defective and unsafe manure trucks, fall hazards, inadequately supported catwalks and roof rafters in outbuildings, unsanitary respirators, ungrounded and unapproved electrical equipment, employees eating in unsanitary locations, LP gas tanks not protected against vehicular traffic, failure to lock out machinery prior to maintenance, and allowing an employee to use torn gloves while handling dead chickens.
Maine Ag, LLC, an egg grading and packing company. It faces $27,200 in proposed fines, for four alleged Repeat violations involving contaminated and defective eyewash stations, failure to lock out egg packing machinery before performing maintenance in order to prevent its accidental startup, ungrounded electrical equipment, and unsanitary respirators.
Turner Maintenance and Services, Inc., which services equipment for all firms at the farm. It faces $16,800 in proposed fines for three alleged Repeat, one alleged Serious and three alleged Other than Serious violations for hazards involving an uninspected and defective crane, unmarked exits, an unmarked floor jack, failure to use a seatbelt while operating a tractor, unlabeled oil containers, uninspected fire extinguishers, and lack of strain relief for an electric cord.
PFS Loading Services, Inc., a chicken delivery company. It faces $4,600 in fines for one alleged Repeat and one alleged Serious violation concerning fall hazards and unsanitary respirators.
On June 12, 1996, OSHA cited Decoster Egg Farms, the world's largest producer of brown eggs, for numerous egregious safety and health violations at its Turner, Maine, egg farm and proposed $3.6 million in fines. In May 1997, Decoster Egg Farms entered into a comprehensive settlement agreement which required correction of all cited hazards, development of a comprehensive safety and health program, procurement of a safety director, an independent audit and payment of a $2 million fine. In September 1997, A.J. 'Jack' Decoster contracted with four new companies, owned by former Decoster Egg Farm employees, to raise chickens, transport eggs, market eggs and service equipment. OSHA inspections conducted between November 1998 and June 1999, resulted in the companies being cited for a total of 78 violations for which they paid $224,625 in fines.
Freeman urged Maine employers and employees with questions regarding workplace safety and health standards to contact the OSHA offices in Bangor or Portland and added that OSHA's toll-free, nationwide hotline -- 1-800-321-OSHA (1-800-321-6742)-- may be used to report workplace accidents or fatalities or situations posing imminent danger to workers, especially if they occur outside of normal business hours.
A repeated violation is issued by OSHA when an employer has been previously cited for a substantially similar violation and that citation has become final. In this case, the Repeat citations are all based on similar hazardous cited at the Turner farm in May 1999.
A serious violation is defined by OSHA as one in which there is a substantial probability that death or serious physical harm could result, and the employer knew, or should have known, of the hazard.
An other-than-serious violation is a condition which would probably not cause death or serious physical harm but would have a direct and immediate relationship to the safety and health of employees.
OSHA is empowered by the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970 to issue standards and rules requiring employers to provide their employees with safe and healthful workplaces and jobsites, and to assure through workplace inspections that those standards are followed.
Each company has 15 working days from receipt of its citations and proposed penalties to either elect to comply with them, to request and participate in an informal conference with the OSHA area director, or to contest them before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.
[NOTE: A fact sheet listing the citations by item follows]
The information in this release will be made available to sensory impaired individuals upon request. Voice phone: (617) 565-2072. TDD (Telecommunications Device for the Deaf) Message Referral Phone: 800-347-8029.
Fact Sheet Citations and Proposed Penalties
Maine Contract Farming, LLC Total proposed penalties: $77,000
Five alleged Repeat violations, with $65,000 in penalties, for:
- employees exposed to possible collapse hazards from structurally unsafe elevated catwalks and roof rafters in outbuldings;
- employees exposed to electric shock from improperly installed or maintained electrical equipment;
- ungrounded electrical equipment; frayed and damaged electrical cords in use; uncovered electrical equipment;
- unguarded floor edges exposing employees to falls of six and eight feet;
- failure to institute and enforce respirator cleaning procedures.
Five alleged Serious violations, with $11,000 in penalties, for:
- employees exposed to being struck by manure trucks that were not maintained in safe condition;
- employee exposed to salmonella and biological hazards from wearing torn gloves while handling dead chickens;
- the power source for egg collecting machinery was not locked out before preforming maintenance;
- LP gas tanks were not protected from damage by vehicular traffic or fire;
- employees allowed to consume food in unsanitary locations (manure trucks).
One alleged Other than Serious violation, with a $1,000 penalty, for:
fire extinguisher not kept in its designated locations.
Maine Ag, LLC Total proposed penalties: $27,200
Turner Maintenance & Services, Inc. Total proposed penalties: $16,800
Three alleged Repeat violations, with $13,500 in penalties, for:
- garage exit doors not marked with exit signs;
- rated weight capacity of a jack not legibly marked;
- employees not wearing seatbelts while operating tractors.
One alleged Serious violation, with a $1,500 penalty, for:
- employees exposed to fractures and lacerations while operating a defective crane that had not been periodically inspected for defects.
Three alleged Other than Serious violations, with penalties of $1,800, for:
- all portable fire extinguishers not inspected monthly;
- electric cord not provided with strain relief;
- unlabeled containers of oil.
PFS Loading Services, Inc. Total proposed penalties: $4,600
One alleged Repeat violation, with a $4,000 penalty, for:
- employees exposed to fall hazards of at least 9 feet from an unguarded tailgate.
One alleged Serious violation, with a $600 penalty, for:
- failure to institute and enforce respirator cleaning procedures.