North Carolina Farm Faces $861K in Fines Stemming From 55 Violations

A farm company based in North Carolina, but with operations in Ohio as well, is facing more than $850,000 in fines for a total of 55 labor law violations as reported by the Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA).
The federal regulator called the farm company an “outrageously dangerous place to work.” Of those 55 violations, two were willful, 20 were repeat and 30 were serious. In the last 25 years, OSHA reports the company has been cited for more than 350 safety and health code violations.

The company, which is focused on raising and processing poultry, has appealed the findings, citing a recent milestone of passing 900,000 employee hours without a single injury. A total of 3,200 workers are employed at the company. Safety inspectors, on the other hand, say it’s only a matter of time before tragedy strikes, if operations continue without significant changes.

Among the dangers inspectors uncovered:

  • Amputation hazards.
  • Fall hazards as a result of non-functioning fall-arrest systems, wet work surfaces and unprotected platforms.
  • Improperly-stored oxygen cylinders.
  • Lack of personal protective equipment.
  • Lack of emergency eye wash stations.
  • Numerous violations of electrical safety standards.
  • Dangerous machinery.
  • Blocked exit routes.
  • Air contaminants.
  • Lock-out/tagout violations.

That puts workers at risks of amputations, falls, explosions, electrocutions and more. An OSHA represented stated, “This simply must stop.”

Defendant company has a long history of unsafe working conditions. Going back to 1988, OSHA inspectors with the North Carolina Department of Labor have inspected the operations in both North Carolina and Ohio a total of 66 times. The result was citations were issued following 42 of those inspections. That means citations were issued nearly 64 percent of the time in the last 25 years.Most of those inspections were initiated after there was a reported worker injury or complaint.

During that time, the company has received 43 citations for electrical issues, 25 citations for machine guarding failure, 24 citations for process safety management violations, 19 citations for respiratory protection systems, 15 citations for walking work surfaces and a number of other repeat violations.

The plants in North Carolina are located in Morganton, Mount Olive, Goldsboro and Dudley. They process 2.8 million chickens a week between those locations and the four in Ohio.

Two years ago, officials with the company promised federal officials they would address worker safety issues in a settlement agreement, following a finding that it exposed workers to dangerous machinery at one of its Ohio plants. However, follow-up inspections indicated hardly anything was done to address these issues.

In addition to the fines lobbied against the company, OSHA has added the firm to the Severe Violator Enforcement Program.

Although workers who are injured generally cannot sue their employer for negligence in addition to receiving workers’ compensation benefits, it may be possible to do so in cases where workers can prove “gross negligence.” This means the company was aware imminent threat of serious injury to workers was likely and failed to act. This is a high standard to reach, but it’s a more viable claim in a situation like this, if a worker suffers injury from a hazard for which the company was repeatedly warned and cited.

If you have been injured at work, contact the Lee Law Offices at 800-887-1965.

Additional Resources:
On-Air Slaying of Reporter, Cameraman Raises Workplace Safety Concerns, Sept. 3, 2015, Greensboro Work Injury Lawyer Blog

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