OSHA says employees at Birds Eye Foods’ facility in Darien, WI, were “left in the cold.” Now the company faces $109,400 in fines.
The workers faced minus 40° temperatures when working in freezers at the plant. OSHA says entry-level Birds Eye employees bought thermal protective equipment because Birds Eye didn’t provide it. OSHA initiated the inspection after a complaint.
The one repeat violation was for failure to install fixed stairs to access elevations with tools and equipment, which exposed workers to fall hazards. Inspectors found the same violation at the Darien facility in June 2013.
The 12 serious violations include failure to:
- protect employees from slip, trip and fall hazards inside a tunnel freezer with temperature extremes
- keep all places of employment, passageways, storerooms or service rooms clean and orderly or in a sanitary condition
- guard ladderway floor openings or platforms by a standard railing with standard toeboards on all exposed sides
- provide protective equipment, including equipment for eyes, face, head, and extremities, protective clothing, respiratory devices, and protective shields and barriers when employees were working inside the freezer
- provide mechanical ventilation that meets the minimum rate of 2,000 cubic feet per minute per welder
- place markings giving voltage, current, wattage, or other ratings as necessary on equipment being used
- de-energize live parts to which an employee was exposed before the employee worked on or near them
- provide employees working in areas where there were potential electrical hazards with electrical protective equipment that was appropriate for specific parts of the body and for work to be performed
- properly test employees for hexavalent chromium exposure, and
- train employees about hazardous hexavalent chromium exposure.
“It was ridiculous that workers needed to spend money on protections their employer failed to provide,” said Kim Stille, OSHA’s area director in Madison, WI.
Birds Eye has 15 business days from receipt of its citations to comply, request an informal conference with OSHA or contest the findings to the Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.