Region 1 News Release: BOS 99-001
Monday, January 4, 1999
Contact: Ted Fitzgerald, (617) 565-2074
Over $115,000 in Penalties Proposed against Atlantic Coast Fisheries Corp.
OSHA CITES NEW BEDFORD, MASSACHUSETTS, FISH PROCESSOR FOR ALLEGED WILLFUL AND SERIOUS SAFETY VIOLATIONS FOLLOWING THE DEATH OF A WORKER
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) of the U.S. Labor Department has cited Atlantic Coast Fisheries Corporation, a New Bedford, Massachusetts, fish processing plant, for alleged Willful and Serious violations of the Occupational Safety and Health Act following the July 30, 1998, death of a worker and has proposed fines against the company totaling $115,500.
According to Brenda Gordon, OSHA area director for southeastern Massachusetts, the accident occurred when two employees of the plant's rendering department were cleaning the inside of a large ribbon blender, which is used to process fish gurry. The cleaning hose accidentally brushed up against the blender's on/off switch, activating the blender and causing its blade shaft to begin rotating. One worker was able to grab an overhead pipe and pull himself to safety, but the second worker suffered fatal injuries when he became caught in the rotating blade.
"The inspection found that the company had failed to provide and use safeguards that would have prevented the accidental startup of this machine while employees were working inside it," said Gordon.
OSHA's hazardous energy control, or 'lockout/tagout' standard mandates that such machinery be shut down and its power source be physically locked out before workers clean, service or perform maintenance. The standard requires employers to, among other things, develop and use machine-specific lockout procedures, train employees in said procedures, annually review its lockout program, and ensure that lockout devices are in fact affixed to the power source before employees begin working on a machine.
"In this case, the blender's power source was not physically locked out, the company had not developed lockout procedures for this and two other blenders located in the rendering plant, employees had not received lockout training, and the company had not reviewed its existing lockout program for the past six years." said Gordon.
OSHA's inspection of the plant also identified a number of other safety deficiencies, not directly related to the accident but nonetheless posing hazards to workers if uncorrected. Cited items include unguarded or inadequately guarded moving machine parts, numerous electrical safety hazards, lack of an emergency response plan and employee training for responding to incidents involving the plant's anhydrous ammonia and liquid nitrogen systems, a blocked and unmarked exit door, blocked access to an eyewash, deficiencies with emergency respirators, and five instances of portable fire extinguishers not maintained in proper working order.
Gordon explained that the size of the fines proposed in this case reflect both the breadth of items cited and the classification of the lockout citation as willful, the most severe category of OSHA citation and the one carrying the highest penalties. OSHA defines a willful violation as one committed with an intentional disregard of, or plain indifference to, the requirements of the Occupational Safety and Health Act and regulations. For this citation, OSHA is proposing a fine of $70,000, the maximum allowed under the law.
Specifically, the citations and $115,500 in proposed penalties encompass the following:
One alleged Willful violation, with a proposed penalty of $70,000, for:
failure to develop and utilize energy control procedures for maintenance, daily rinsing operations and routine thorough cleaning of the three ribbon blenders; failure to train all authorized and affected employees on the requirements of the lockout/tagout program; failure to ensure a lockout or tagout device was installed on the ribbon blender prior to workers entering the blenders; and failure to conduct an annual inspection of the lockout program for the last six years.
Fourteen alleged Serious violations, with proposed penalties of $45,500, for:
an emergency exit door was blocked with pallets of fish product and was also not marked with an exit sign;
failure to develop and implement a written emergency response program to address potential emergencies related to the anhydrous ammonia and liquid nitrogen systems in use at the plant;
failure to sufficiently train employees expected to respond to releases of anhydrous ammonia and liquid nitrogen;
failure to inspect, maintain inspection records and develop standard written operating procedures for emergency respirators;
five instances of failing to maintain portable fire extinguishers in a fully charged and/or operational condition;
no guards or bowl covers for rotating ribbon blades on the three blenders and inadequate machine guarding for a trash compactor; unguarded projecting shaft on a conveyor; inadequately guarded chain and sprocket on a ribbon blender;
electrical equipment not free from recognized hazards; exposed and ungrounded cord and plug equipment; unclosed openings in electrical boxes and cabinets; flexible cords used for prohibited purposes; inadequate strain relief for electrical cords.
[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]
Atlantic Coast Fisheries Corporation processes frozen fish and employs 255 workers at its facility, which is located at 200 Rear Herman Melville Boulevard in New Bedford. 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.
Gordon urged employers and employees with questions regarding workplace safety and health standards to contact the OSHA area office in Braintree 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.
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.
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.