National News Release USDL 99 - 153
Tuesday, June 1, 1999
Contact: Frank Kane (202) 693-1999
Workplace Safety and Health Hazards Alleged
OSHA PROPOSES FINES OF $446,500 AGAINST SUCCESSOR FIRMS
TO DECOSTER EGG FARMS IN MAINE; SETTLEMENT TERMS VIOLATED
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration has issued citations for safety and health violations to five companies that have taken over portions of the DeCoster Egg Farm's business in Turner, Maine. Some of the alleged violations are for failure to live up to terms of a 1997 settlement agreement between OSHA and DeCoster, a leading egg producer.
OSHA proposed total penalties of $446,500 against the five: Maine Ag, LLC; Maine Contract Farming, LLC; Turner Maintenance & Services, Inc.; PFS Loading Services, Inc.; and Northern Transportation, LLC, all of Turner.
"In July 1996, OSHA cited DeCoster Egg Farms for violations with penalties totaling $3.6 million," said Secretary of Labor Alexis M. Herman. "Ten months later, the Labor Department reached a settlement with DeCoster to correct the hazards. Some progress has been made, but many hazards still must be addressed and corrected. The companies that took over portions of DeCoster's business must ensure that their employees work in a safe and healthful environment."
Dangerous conditions for which OSHA issued citations against the firms included failure to adequately support a metal catwalk; unsafe elevators; water accumulation in chicken pits; floor holes in chicken barns; unsafe electrical equipment; hearing conservation violations; deficiencies in respiratory protection; lack of personal protective equipment for chemical exposures; and lack of fall protection, as well as an inadequate emergency and fire prevention plan; failure to have material safety data sheets in Spanish; and lack of hazard communication training.
In the May 1997 settlement agreement, DeCoster agreed to pay $2 million, which it did, and to make significant improvements in safety and health over three years. An independent auditor later found DeCoster in substantial compliance at the 10-12 month point.
In September 1997, A. J. "Jack" DeCoster, sold or leased portions of DeCoster Egg Farm's operations to eight companies owned and operated by five former employees. The new companies service equipment, raise chickens, transport products and market eggs. DeCoster retained ownership of the farm's 3.5 million chickens as well as its real estate.
"OSHA must continue its efforts to protect workers involved in these operations, even though they may now be employees of successor firms,'' said Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health Charles N. Jeffress. "We insist that worker protection must be maintained."
OSHA is issuing citations for one alleged willful violation with a penalty of $70,000; 21 alleged repeat violations with a total penalty of $232,900; 41 alleged serious violations with a total penalty of $117,200; 12 alleged other-than-serious violations with a total penalty of $16,400; and one alleged failure-to-abate violation with a penalty of $10,000.
OSHA cited Maine Ag, LLC, an egg grading and packing company with about 150 employees at its Maine site, for safety and health violations with total proposed penalties of $215,000, including a $70,000 willful citation for violations of the requirement to lock-out and tag power sources before servicing machinery. John Glessner, owner and operator of Maine Ag, LLC, had assumed responsibility for carrying out the settlement agreement.
Also cited were:
Maine Contract Farming, LLC, an egg producing agri-business, with about 150 workers at its Maine site, with proposed penalties totaling $216,500 for both health and safety violations.
Turner Maintenance & Services, Inc., which provides maintenance services and has 13 employees, for safety violations with a total proposed penalty of $9,400.
PFS Loading Services, Inc., a chicken delivery company with 20 employees, for safety and health violations with a total proposed penalty of $5,000.
Northern Transportation, LLC, a trucking company which delivers chicken feed and ships packaged eggs, with 45 employees, for a recordkeeping violation with a proposed penalty of $600.
Twenty-two of the citations were for violations of Section 5 (a)(1) of the Occupational Safety and Health Act, the general duty clause, which requires employers to keep the workplace free from recognized hazards that are causing or likely to cause death or serious physical harm to employees. Most of these citations were for alleged violations of the 1997 settlement agreement.
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.
A repeat violation is a violation of any standard, regulation, rule or order where, upon reinspection, a substantially similar violation is found. To be the basis of a repeat violation, the original citation must be final, and not under contest.
A serious violation is defined 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 hazardous condition that would probably not cause death or serious physical harm, but would have a direct and immediate relationship to the safety and/or health of employees.
# # #
This news release text is on the Internet World Wide Web at http://www.osha.gov. Information on this release will be made available to sensory impaired individuals upon request. Voice phone: (202) 693-1999.