OSHA News Release - (Archived) Table of Contents|
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 respond."
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 spill.
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 in Macon.
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.
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