Safety and OSHA News

OSHA cites poultry processor for ergonomic violations

Here’s proof that OSHA can issue citations involving ergonomics despite not having a specific regulation on musculoskeletal injuries. 

OSHA has fined Wayne Farms for exposing workers to dangerous machinery, falls and ergonomic hazards at its Jack, AL, plant. The 11 citations total $102,600 in fines.

One repeat violation ($38,500) was for failure to protect workers from moving parts of a machine during servicing and maintenance work. OSHA says Wayne lacked lockout/tagout procedures for a machine. The company faced a similar citation in February 2012 at its Enterprise, AL, plant.

Seven serious violations ($49,000) involve exposing workers to unguarded machines, slippery floors and fall hazards.

OSHA issued two more serious General Duty Clause (GDC) citations ($14,000) for musculoskeletal disorder hazards. One was issued for exposing employees on the debone line to hazards while performing prolonged, repetitive, forceful tasks, often while using awkward postures. The second GDC fine was for exposing employees to repetitive lifting and carrying totes filled with chicken that can weight more than 75 pounds.

One other-than-serious violation ($1,100) was for failing to record serious work-related injuries on OSHA’s 300 form.

OSHA uses the GDC when it doesn’t have a specific standard for a workplace hazard.

To make a GDC fine stick, OSHA must show the hazard was recognized. OSHA lists three ways in which a hazard qualifies as recognized:

  1. Employer recognition: This can be established through evidence of actual employer knowledge of a hazardous condition
  2. Industry recognition: A hazard is recognized if the employer’s industry is aware of its existence
  3. Common sense knowledge: Recognition can still be established if a hazardous condition is so obvious that any reasonable person would have recognized it.

Along those lines, on Aug. 1, the U.S. Departments of Agriculture and Labor mailed a letter to all poultry plants regarding their responsibility to prevent work-related musculoskeletal disorders. OSHA has also published specific information, available for free on its website, to help poultry processors guard against employee ergonomic injuries.

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