US Labor Department's OSHA cites VPP Group LLC after maintenance
worker electrocuted at Norwalk, Wis., meat processing facility
Another worker electrocuted at plant in 2009; company placed in severe violator program
NORWALK, Wis. – The U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration has cited VPP Group LLC with 11 safety violations – including two willful – after a maintenance worker was electrocuted at the company's Norwalk beef processing plant on Dec. 9, 2011.
OSHA's inspection found that the electrocution occurred when workers were sent to fix a leaking water pipe near equipment which had not been weatherproofed for use in wet locations. This allowed moisture and water to accumulate in electrical boxes and fixtures. In June 2009, another worker had been electrocuted at the facility.
"VPP Group has a legal and moral responsibility to maintain a safe environment for its workers," said Kim Stille, OSHA's area director in Madison. "Placing electrical devices in dangerous locations and failing to provide fall protection shows zero commitment to worker safety and health."
Two willful violations were cited for placing electrical fixtures, boxes and fittings in locations where water could enter and accumulate, as well as failing to require the use of fall protection equipment by employees working on I-beams approximately 15 feet above the lower level. A willful violation is one committed with intentional, knowing or voluntary disregard for the law's requirements, or with plain indifference to worker safety and health.
Additionally, eight serious safety violations include failing to properly adjust a grinder's work rest to protect employees from flying debris; label branch circuits; effectively ground wiring for a fluorescent light; cover electrical junction boxes; use fixed wiring in place of flexible cords; and de-energize circuits while a water leak near energized parts was being repaired. 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.
One other-than-serious violation was cited for failing to identify the employee applying a lock to an energy isolating device. 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.
In April, Secretary of Labor Hilda L. Solis announced a new campaign to provide employers and workers with lifesaving information and educational materials about working safely from ladders, scaffolds and roofs in an effort to prevent deadly falls in the construction industry. In 2010, more than 10,000 construction workers were injured as a result of falling while working from heights, and more than 250 workers were killed. OSHA's fall prevention campaign was developed in partnership with the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health and NIOSH's National Occupational Research Agenda program. More information is available on fall protection standards in English and Spanish at http://www.osha.gov/stopfalls.
Due to the willful nature of some of the violations, OSHA has placed VPP Group in its Severe Violator Enforcement Program, which mandates targeted follow-up inspections to ensure compliance with the law. The program focuses on recalcitrant employers who endanger workers by committing certain willful, repeat or failure-to-abate violations. For more information about the program, visit http://s.dol.gov/J3.
The company, which employs 111 workers, previously has been inspected by OSHA four times, including a June 2009 inspection after the first worker was electrocuted at the plant. That inspection resulted in citations for failing to require employees to use personnel protective equipment. In total, the company has been cited previously for 41 safety violations.
The citations from the most recent inspection can be viewed at http://www.osha.gov/ooc/citations/VPPGroupLLC_110344_0608_12.pdf*.
Proposed penalties total $186,000. VPP Group has 15 business days from receipt of its current citations and penalties to comply, request an informal conference 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 Milwaukee area office at 414-297-3315.
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.
U.S. Department of Labor news materials are accessible at http://www.dol.gov. The information above is available in large print, Braille or CD from the COAST office upon request by calling 202-693-7828 or TTY 202-693-7755.
* Accessibility Assistance Contact OSHA's Office of Communications at 202-693-1999 for assistance accessing PDF materials.