US Department of Labor's OSHA cites Massachusetts seafood processor for
serious safety violations following worker's death
Temporary employment agency also cited for hazards to workers
BRAINTREE, Mass. – A 35-year-old sanitation supervisor at a New Bedford fish processing plant died on Jan. 16, 2014, after he was caught in the rotating parts of the shucking machine he was cleaning. Following an investigation by the U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration, his employer, Sea Watch International Ltd., was cited for seven serious safety violations, including failure to implement basic safety procedures to protect workers who service or maintain machines.
"This worker should not have died. This death was preventable if the company had implemented the required safety practices," said Brenda Gordon, OSHA's area director for southeastern Massachusetts. "It is the employer's responsibility to ensure that all requirements are met and to take effective action to ensure that these hazards, and the dangers they pose to workers, do not occur again."
The company was cited for failing to implement lockout/tagout procedures that protect workers who clean machinery. The violations include failure to provide a lockout device; incomplete lockout/tagout procedures; not conducting periodic inspections of these procedures to ensure that all requirements were being met; and failure to train all affected sanitation employees in lockout/tagout procedures. OSHA found that plant employees were exposed to fall hazards and were not trained in up-to-date chemical hazard communication methods.
OSHA also cited Workforce Unlimited Inc., the Johnston, R.I., temporary employment company that supplied temporary workers to the plant, for three serious violations for lack of lockout/tagout procedures, lack of chemical hazard communication training and for exposing workers to ladder hazards. Workforce Unlimited Inc. was cited as a joint employer because it had a supervisor on-site with knowledge of the working conditions. A serious violation occurs when there is substantial probability that death or serious physical harm could result from a hazard about which the employer knew or should have known.
Sea Watch employs 15 full-time workers at its New Bedford plant; 185 of the workers at the plant were temporary employees supplied by Workforce Unlimited.
Concerned about a growing trend of injuries and deaths involving temporary workers, OSHA launched an initiative in 2013 to address the issue. In every inspection, OSHA inspectors determine if every temporary worker at a work site has received the safety training and protections required by law for the job. If not, the employment agency and host employer may both be cited for violations.
"Host employers need to treat temporary workers as they treat existing employees. Temporary staffing agencies and host employers share joint responsibility for temporary employees' safety and health. It is essential that both employers and staffing agencies comply with all relevant OSHA requirements," said Robert B. Hooper, OSHA's acting regional administrator for New England.
Proposed fines against Sea Watch total $35,410, while fines against Workforce Unlimited total $9,000. Each company has 15 business days from receipt of its citations and proposed penalties to comply, meet informally with OSHA's area director, or contest the findings before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.
To ask questions, obtain compliance assistance, file a complaint or report workplace hospitalizations, fatalities or situations posing imminent danger to workers, the public should call OSHA's toll-free hotline at 800-321-OSHA (6742) or the agency's Braintree Area Office at 617-565-6924.
Under the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970, employers are responsible for providing safe and healthful workplaces for their employees. OSHA's role is to ensure these conditions for America's working men and women by setting and enforcing standards, and providing training, education and assistance. For more information, visit http://www.osha.gov/.
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