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OSHA National News Release
U.S. Department of Labor
"This document was published prior to the publication of OSHA's final rule on Ergonomics Program (29 CFR 1910.900, November 14, 2000), and therefore does not necessarily address or reflect the provisions set forth in the final standard."
News Release USDL 97-459
Friday, December 19, 1997
Contact: Frank Kane (202) 219-8151
Second Case This Year for Plant
OSHA PROPOSES PENALTIES OF $840,000 AGAINST HUDSON FOODS FOR SIGNIFICANT ERGONOMICS VIOLATIONS AT NOEL, MO., FACILITY
In a major ergonomics enforcement action, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) today proposed penalties totaling $840,000 against Hudson Foods, Inc., for alleged willful safety and health violations involving ergonomic hazards at its Noel, Mo., poultry processing plant. It is the second OSHA case this year involving the Hudson Foods facility.
Ergonomics is the science of adjusting the job to fit the body's needs.
Cumulative trauma and other repetitive motion disorders constitute the number one workplace illness in the American workplace today, said Secretary of Labor Alexis M. Herman. Employers such as Hudson Foods who fail to protect their workers against significant ergonomic hazards that can cause injury or illness will face stiff penalties.
The earlier case against Hudson resulted in $322,500 in OSHA fines proposed on July 22, 1997, for alleged willful, serious, repeat and other-than-serious violations of other requirements for worker safety and health at the Noel plant. The employer is contesting those prior citations.
The ergonomic hazards at the Hudson Foods facility in Noel resulted in more than 300 cases of cumulative trauma disorders (CTD) among the workers. CTDs include such injuries and illnesses as carpal tunnel syndrome. The number of cases rose steadily each year for the three years from 1994 through 1996 and included about 20 surgeries.
OSHA cited Hudson Foods for 12 alleged willful violations of Section 5(a)(1) of the Occupational Safety and Health Act, which requires the employer to keep the workplace free from recognized hazards that are causing or likely to cause death or serious injury to the employees. The 12 violations involve 23 different tasks at the facility. The agency proposed the maximum penalty of $70,000 per violation.
Willful violations are those committed with an intentional disregard of, or plain indifference to, the requirements of the Occupational Safety and Health Act and regulations.
Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health Charles N. Jeffress said, Enforcement is a key aspect of OSHA's approach to reducing ergonomic-related musculoskeletal disorders, a fast-growing and very costly threat to the health of American workers. We will pursue that enforcement vigorously.
OSHA is also pursuing the study of ergonomic hazards and their solutions, developing educational materials about practical solutions to ergonomic problems and developing an ergonomics standard.
Hudson Foods has about 1,300 production employees at the Noel facility. They are represented by the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) union. The multi-million dollar firm has 11,000 employees nationwide. The company is being purchased by Tyson Foods.
Responding to employee representative complaints about safety and health conditions, OSHA began inspecting the Hudson Foods Noel plant in January 1997.
OSHA's citations included recommendations on a variety of methods for abating the hazards such as automation, mechanization, employee training and more work rest periods.
Hudson Foods has 15 working days to contest the citations and proposed penalties before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.
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