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Processor Faces Fine over Safety Breaches

by 5m Editor
25 August 2009, at 10:53am

GEORGIA, US - A poultry processing company is facing almost $380,000 in fines for a series of 'wilful and serious' health and safety violations committed over a five-year period.

The US Government's Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has proposed fining Mar-Jac Poultry Inc for failure to keep its hazard analysis records up to date, as well as citing dozens of serious health and safety breaches, reports Food Production Daily. The body urged the Gainesville-based company not to wait until one of its workers died before bringing its safety practices up to standard.

OSHA defined a willful violation as 'one committed with plain indifference to, or intentional disregard for, employee safety and health'. The proposed financial penalty has been tabled in two parts.

The US work safety watch dog outlined four 'wilful violations' against Mar-Jac, for which the company should pay a $252,000 penalty. These were listed as a failure to update its hazard analysis at five-year intervals as required, not establishing specific maintenance procedures for its processing equipment, as well as not carrying out equipment and procedural changes for its ammonia refrigeration system in 2004, 2005 and 2008. The poultry processor was also censured for failure to perform required compliance audits for the years 2000, 2003 and 2007.

Food Production Daily adds that Mar-Jac's plant has also been cited for 37 serious health and safety violations that carry a possible penalty of $127,800. The safety hazards included a lack of proper machine guarding, uncovered floor holes, obstructed emergency exit routes and portable fire extinguishers not being readily available, said an OSHA statement.

The multiple health violations listed by the US government organisation included failing to establish a maintenance program to ensure the reliability of the ammonia refrigeration system, non-implementation of noise control and failure to develop an emergency response plan for employees responding to ammonia emergencies.

Gei-Thae Breezley, director of OSHA's Atlanta-East Area Office, said: "Mar-Jac Poultry management should not wait until a serious injury or death occurs to any of its workers before making the necessary changes to its safety and health program. When a company knows and continues to ignore its responsibilities OSHA will step in to protect the workers."

The company was given 15 working days to comply with the citation, request a meeting with the OSHA or appeal against the charges.