OSHA fines Cargill Meat Solutions USA

The U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has cited Cargill Meat Solutions Corp. with three safety violations for failing to protect workers from unexpected start-up of machines at its Beardstown, Ill. pork processing facility, the agency said in a news release posted on its website.

The proposed penalties total $114,000. OSHA initiated an inspection upon receiving a complaint alleging hazards.

One willful violation in the citation is directing workers to perform maintenance and servicing on carbon dioxide equipment without first documenting lockout and tagout procedures designed to prevent unexpected energization. A willful violation is one committed with intentional knowing or voluntary disregard for the law's requirements, or with plain indifference to worker safety and health.

One repeat violation is failing to train workers who operate equipment on procedures to properly control hazardous energy. A repeat violation exists when an employer previously has been cited for the same or a similar violation of a standard, regulation, rule or order at any other facility in federal enforcement states within the last five years. A similar violation was cited in May 2009 at the company's Nebraska City, Neb., facility.

One serious violation is failing to document and certify periodic inspections of lockout procedures for an older model of carbon dioxide equipment. A serious violation occurs when there is substantial probability that death or serious physical harm could result from a hazard about which the employer knew or should have known.

To view the citation in its entirety, click here.

In response, company spokesman Mike Martin sent this statement to Meatingplace: "Workplace and employee safety is a top priority at Cargill processing plants, and we invest substantial resources to ensure our workers, facilities, equipment and processes are as safe as possible. We believe the OSHA citations are unfounded and we will work with the agency toward a mutually acceptable resolution. No Cargill employees were ever at risk from these alleged OSHA violations."

The company has 15 business days from receipt of the citations and penalties to comply, request an informal conference with OSHA's area director or contest the findings before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.

Cargill Meat Solutions, based in Wichita, Kan., is a processor and distributor of fresh beef, pork and turkey, as well as cooked and marinated meats for retail and food service customers. It employs about 1,800 workers at its Beardstown facility.