News Release USDL: 97-106
Tuesday, March 25, 1997
Contact: Frank Kane, (202) 219-8151
Contact: Tom Smith, (202) 219-8211
Failure to Lock Out Machinery Causes Amputations
Atlanta Poultry Processor Faces Almost $1.3 Million Fine
For Safety Violations
An Atlanta-based poultry processor is facing a fine of
$1,271,000 following a series of accidents causing three workers
to suffer amputations, according to the Occupational Safety and
Health Administration (OSHA).
Cagle's, Inc., is being cited for numerous alleged willful
and serious safety violations at its Macon, Ga., facility.
OSHA's action comes after an employee lost part of a finger while
cleaning moving equipment on Sept. 10, 1996, and two other
workers suffered amputations -- of a finger and a foot -- the
preceding year, all in lockout/tagout related accidents.
Inspectors found that Cagle's failed to use required
procedures to ensure that hazardous machinery is turned off and
remains inoperative, or "locked out," during any repair, maintenance
or servicing work. OSHA's investigation showed that Cagle's
managers knew of the hazards and failed to respond to employee
concerns for personal safety and equipment malfunctions.
"There is no excuse for this company's obvious disregard for
employee safety and its refusal to maintain an effective
lockout/tagout program. When an employer willfully ignores
safety standards, as Cagle's did, and continues to put workers in
danger of serious injury or death, stiff penalties are merited,"
said Acting Secretary of Labor Cynthia Metzler.
The Department of Labor will announce this spring its
initiative on the poultry industry. This campaign, initiated by
former Secretary of Labor Robert B. Reich, focuses on the need to
protect workers in the industry through education, outreach and
enforcement. Reich emphasized that "sweatshop conditions --
whether in garment factories, fields or poultry processing plants
-- will not be tolerated."
Less than a year ago, in April 1996, Cagle's Macon plant was
cited by OSHA and the company ultimately paid a fine of $88,000
following two amputations linked to failure to lock out equipment
that workers were cleaning, servicing or maintaining. In settling
these citations, the company agreed to fully comply with OSHA's
standard. In July, to ensure Cagle's personnel were familiar
with lockout/tagout regulations, OSHA compliance officers
provided on-site training for Cagle's safety audit team.
Gregory R. Watchman, acting assistant secretary of labor for
occupational safety and health said, "Cagle's managers knew about
the hazards. They had observed many instances of employees
cleaning equipment without lockout, and workers had voiced
concerns about their personal safety, but management did not
OSHA assessed Cagle $55,000 for each of 21 instances in
which employees who were responsible for cleaning machinery were
not trained to perform lockout and did not have locks to secure
machinery before cleaning work began. Proposed penalties for
these alleged willful violations total $1,155,000.
Two additional willful violations -- each carrying a $55,000
proposed penalty -- were alleged for equipment not being locked
out during clean-up operations and for employees locking out for
other employees. Remaining penalties, totaling $6,000, were
proposed for three alleged serious violations relating to an acid
Cagle's employs 900 workers at the Macon plant, 52 of whom
were covered by this inspection. The company, which has
approximately 3,550 employees nationwide, produces deboned
chicken and chicken parts for the grocery, fast food and
restaurant industries, primarily in the Southeast.
The inspection was conducted by OSHA's Atlanta-East area
office, which has done 18 previous inspections at Cagle's plant
OSHA defines a willful violation as one committed with an
intentional disregard of, or plain indifference to, the requirements of the OSH Act and regulations.
A serious violation is one in which there is substantial
probability that death or serious physical harm could result and
that the employer knew or should have known of the hazard.
Cagle's has 15 working days to contest OSHA's citations and
proposed penalties before the independent Occupational Safety and
Health Review Commission.