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Region 1 News Release:   BOS 99-199
Tuesday, October 26, 1999
Contact: Ted Fitzgerald
PHONE: (617) 565-2074

OSHA CITES BOSTON, MASS., EMPLOYER FOR ALLEGED SERIOUS SAFETY VIOLATIONS FOLLOWING WORKER DEATH; $28,800 IN FINES PROPOSED AGAINST UNITED FOODS, INC.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) of the U.S. Labor Department has cited United Foods, Inc., a food and grocery supplier located at 170 Lincoln Street in Boston, Massachusetts, for alleged Serious and Other than Serious violations of the Occupational Safety and Health Act following the death of a worker. OSHA has proposed penalties totaling $28,800.

According to Brenda Gordon, OSHA area director for Boston and southeastern Massachusetts, the alleged violations were discovered during an inspection initiated July 16, 1999, and chiefly concern hazards associated with a vertical freight platform used to move stock between floors of the five story building. On July 15, the platform failed and fell to the basement. An employee was in the platform when it fell and subsequently died.

"The inspection identified several safety deficiencies associated with the freight platform that exposed employees to load failures while loading and unloading stock or while riding the platform, being caught between the platform and the interior of the shaft while riding the platform and falling into the shaft or being struck by the moving platform while loading or unloading stock," said Gordon.

The cited conditions included:

  • lack of an arresting device that would function to stop the platform in the event of a load failure
  • failure to post the platform's rated load capacity (the maximum load allowed)
  • failure to prevent employees from riding the freight platform between floors
  • failure to equip the platform with car gates
  • failure to interlock the shaftway gates with the freight platform to prevent them from being opened when the platform was not at a landing
  • the gates were inadequate to prevent falls in that they were not capable of withstanding 200 pounds of force.

The company was also cited for the following items that were unrelated to the freight platform: an ungrounded compressor fan, unguarded blades on another fan, no rails on the stairways between the third and fifth floors of the building and failure to maintain an injury and illness log.

Gordon noted that there were several feasible methods for abating the hazards cited in connection with the freight platform, including replacing the existing freight platform with a unit that complies with the Massachusetts state elevator code; prominently posting the platform's rated load capacity; providing hoist gates that electronically or mechanically interlock to prevent them from opening when the platform is not at a landing; and ensuring that employees do not ride the platform.

Specifically, the citations and proposed penalties encompass:

Seven alleged Serious violations, with $26,400 in penalties proposed, for:

  • failure to furnish a place of employment free from recognized hazards likely to cause death or serious physical harm in that employees were exposed to:
  • the hazards of having their body parts caught between the moving platform and the shaftway due to the lack of car gates and employees riding the platform between floors;
  • the hazard of a hoist failure while loading/unloading stock or riding the platform between floors due to the lack of an arresting device and the lack of a rated load capacity for the platform; and
  • the hazards of falling down the shaftway when the platform was not in a loading zone, being struck by the platform while it entered or left a landing zone, and having body parts caught between the moving platform and the shaftway;
  • hoistway gates not capable of withstanding 200 pounds of force;
  • stairs from third to fifth floors were not equipped with railings;
  • the compressor fan for a freezer was not guarded against contact;
  • another compressor fan was not grounded.

One alleged Other than Serious violation, with a proposed penalty of $2,400, for:

  • failure to maintain the OSHA 200 illness and injury log.

Gordon urged eastern Massachusetts employers and employees with questions regarding workplace safety and health standards to contact the OSHA area offices in Braintree or Methuen and added that OSHA's toll-free, nationwide hotline --1-800-321-OSHA (1-800-321-6742)-- may be used to report workplace accidents or fatalities or situations posing imminent danger to workers, especially if they occur outside of normal business hours.

A serious violation is defined by OSHA as one in which there is a substantial probability that death or serious physical harm could result, and the employer knew, or should have known, of the hazard.

An other-than-serious violation is a condition which would probably not cause death or serious physical harm but would have a direct and immediate relationship to the safety and health of employees.

OSHA is empowered by the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970 to issue standards and rules requiring employers to provide their employees with safe and healthful workplaces and jobsites, and to assure through workplace inspections that those standards are followed.

The company has 15 working days from receipt of the citations and proposed penalties to either elect to comply with them, to request and participate in an informal conference with the OSHA area director, or to contest them before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.

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The information in this release will be made available to sensory impaired individuals upon request. Voice phone: (617) 565-2072. TDD (Telecommunications Device for the Deaf) Message Referral Phone: 800-347-8029.


Archive Notice - OSHA Archive

NOTICE: This is an OSHA Archive Document, and may no longer represent OSHA Policy. It is presented here as historical content, for research and review purposes only.


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