Region 4 News Release: USDL: 99-31
Thurs., March 4, 1999
Contact: Clyde Payne
PHONE :(601) 965-4606 ext. 20
OSHA FINES SUNFLOWER, MISSISSIPPI, COMPANY $130,200
FOLLOWING WORKER DEATH
The Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) today cited
Protein Products, Inc., for safety violations found during an inspection of a worker fatality at the
company's Sunflower, Mississippi, plant. The citations carry proposed penalties totaling
According to Clyde Payne, OSHA's Jackson area director, one worker was killed and several
others injured during repair of a broken chain in the "chain pit". The chain is used to operate a
conveyor in the processing of fish oil and fish meal products.
Payne explained that two employees involved in repairing the chain were overcome by a toxic
gas, probably created by decaying fish parts caught in the chain pit. One worker was pronounced
dead of asphyxiation on arrival at a local hospital and the other was seriously injured. Several
workers who attempted to rescue the two also suffered injuries from toxic fumes.
OSHA's inspection revealed that the company failed to identify the "chain pit" as a confined
space containing potentially toxic gases. As a result, atmospheric testing was not done; danger signs
were not posted, and confined space training was not conducted. Failure to implement confined
space entry procedures; failure to establish an adequate respiratory protection program, and failure
to comply with "lockout/tagout" safety standards resulted in 14 serious citations with proposed
penalties totaling $88,200.
Protein Products was also cited for one willful safety violation in connection with "lockout"
requirements. A penalty of $42,000 was proposed for the company's failure to require that each
exposed employee place a lock on power sources to assure that hazardous machinery is turned off
and remains inoperative, or "locked out," during maintenance.
"This employer was aware of the importance of locking out equipment during servicing and,
in fact, was cited by OSHA in 1990 for deficiencies in its lockout/tagout program," said Payne.
"Failure to follow proper procedures exposes workers to injury, and even death, if the equipment
is accidentally started."
In addressing the confined space citations, Payne added, "Protein Products failed to identify
the "chain pit" as a confined space with potential for toxic atmospheric hazards. As a result,
proper precautions were not taken and, though lifeline/harness equipment and self-contained
breathing apparatus were available, rescuers hadn't been trained to use them."
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 occurs when there is a substantial probability that death or serious
physical harm could result and that the employer knew or should have known of the hazard.
Protein Products has 15 working days to contest OSHA's citations and proposed penalties before
the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.
Inspections of the worksite were conducted by OSHA's Jackson area office located at
3780 I-55 North, Suite 210, Jackson, Miss. 39211-6323; telephone: (601) 965-4606.
This information will be made available to sensory-impaired individuals upon request.
Telecommunications Device for the Deaf (TDD). Telephone: (800) 927-9273.