OSHA Fines Tyson Foods $263k After Worker Amputation Exposes 15 Serious, 2 Repeated Safety Violations

Numerous work safety violations came to light at a poultry processing plant in Texas after a worker suffered a finger amputation, sparking an investigation by state and federal regulators. hands1

The Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) reported it is recommending a fine of $263,000 against one of the largest meat processing firms in the world for the more than a dozen workplace safety violations. Inspectors reported some of the workers were exposed to high levels of carbon dioxide and peracetic acid – without being given the proper personal protective equipment.

The investigation first began when a worker lost a finger that had gotten stuck in a conveyor belt that was not properly guarded while he was working in the de-bone area of the plant. He was trying to remove chicken parts that had gotten jammed in the belt. 

OSHA didn’t identify the worker or his age, but did say the incident prompted a closer look at the plant’s day-to-day processes. Inspectors uncovered a host of problems, including:

  • Failing to ensure moving machine parts had the proper safety guards;
  • Allowing carbon dioxide levels to rise above what is deemed a safe and permissible limit;
  • Not providing workers with the proper personal protective equipment needed to shield them from chemical and harmful gas exposure;
  • Failing to properly train workers on the dangers associated with peracetic acid, which has the potential to cause serious burns and respiratory illness if it’s not handled properly;
  • Exposing workers to slip-and-fall hazards caused by improper drainage in certain areas;
  • Putting workers at-risk of a trip-and-fall caused by drains that were recessed;
  • Placing workers in danger of fire that could result from compressed gas cylinders that weren’t properly stored.

One of the repeated violations – which could result in numerous workers’ compensation claims – involved failure to ensure workers were given the right kind of face and eye protection when exposed to those kinds of hazards.

An OSHA official stated in the news release that Tyson should know better and must do better. In fact, the official said the company must do “much more” if it hopes to prevent these types of disfiguring injuries from occurring. As one of the biggest food suppliers in the U.S., Tyson should be the one setting an example for the best practices in workplace safety. Instead, it continues to receive government citations and fines for ongoing failures in the safety arena.

The inspection was part of a larger effort by the agency’s Regional Emphasis Program for Poultry Processing Facilities. The focus on this particular industry stems from news reports released over the last year highlighting the fact that poultry plant workers were toiling in exceedingly unsafe conditions. These included the unsafe restriction of worker bathroom breaks that resulted in workers dangerously limiting their liquid intake and even wearing diapers so they wouldn’t have to leave the line to relieve themselves.

Even those who don’t work at the site should care. The company has received taxpayer money – recently $5 million in Texas – for the purchase of new equipment and maintenance of those pieces.

The company boasts more than $40 billion in sales and produces more than 68 million pounds of meat every single week. Although headquartered in Alabama, the company has plants in North Carolina and South Carolina.

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

Additional Resources:

Tyson Foods faces $263,000 fine after Texas worker suffers finger amputation, Aug. 16, 2016, By Karen Robinson-Jacobs, Dallas News

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