After a Worker Loses Fingertip, Safety Citations Filed
UNITED STATES – According to an online news report at businessinsurance.com, the Occupational Safety and Heath Review Commission (OSHRC) assessed about twenty thousand dollars in citations against a sanitation company for violations discovered after a worker lost a fingertip in a work-related incident.*
According to the court case of Secretary of Labor v. Packers Sanitation Services, Inc., a judge with OSHRC issued a holding that Packers Sanitation Services, (Packers) which are headquartered in Kieler, Wisconsin, did not have a guard on a quill puller machine and failed to ensure that walking services were safe for workers.
A worker, on April 17, 2017, was using a hose to clean a quill puller as part of his shift that involved cleaning a chicken processing facility in Gainesville, Georgia. The man went too close to the quill puller “which uses two rapidly rotating augers to catch and pull out feathers,” and as a result, his glove got caught in the machine, causing his fingertip to be traumatically amputated. The man reported the injury and was transported to a local hospital for treatment.
As a result of the accident, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) conducted an investigation of the incident about a week after it occurred. Packers alleges it has a lockout-tagout policy regarding the machinery, which includes the quill puller, and also, according to workers, has a two feet stay away policy when cleaning machinery when they are being operated.
Pursuant to OSHA’s investigation, they noticed multiple drains on the floor that ware missing all or a part of their covers. They also noted that the accident was not recorded on the corporation’s Form 300 log.
In response, Packers was cited for 2 serious and 1 other than serious safety violations. Packers asserted that the court should dismiss the case entirely given that the OSHA inspection occurred before Packers’ workers started their respective shifts. According to Packers, “OSHA never inspected (Packers’) workplace.” Packers further noted that it places orange cones around the drains that were partially or fully missing caps.
The judge maintained that one of the citations should hold, ruling that according to the record, Packers’ workers were continuously being exposed to conditions that were unsafe while they were performing their duties. The court found that even though the company put cones around the drains, workers were observed stepping over them, which is an unsafe condition. Packers, as alleged in the lawsuit, did nothing to ensure that workers avoid the insufficient drains. As a result, the court affirmed OSHA violation amount of $4,527.
The judge further ruled that the company did not have any rule that kept employees from cleaning machinery, including the quill puller, while it was running. In essence, there was no requirement imposed by Packers to lock-out the machine first. As a result, the court affirmed the penalty of $12,675. The judge also held that OSHA’s citation for an other-than-serious violation for failing to provide copies to OSHA within four days of them being requested by the agency. Therefore, the $1,811 penalty was affirmed.
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