Maine Egg Farm Faces $150,000 in Penalties

The successor company to DeCoster Egg Farms faces $150,000 in proposed fines from OSHA for requiring employees of a Turner, Maine, egg farm to work in and atop a building after its roof collapsed. Maine Contract Farming LLC was cited for four alleged willful and serious violations of safety standards for these and other hazardous conditions.

A section of the roof of an egg processing complex collapsed Feb. 16 under the weight of snow and ice. Maine Contract Farming directed its employees to enter the partially collapsed structure to retrieve eggs and brace the broken roof trusses and to climb atop the damaged roof to remove snow and ice. The employer did not first evaluate the building's structural integrity to determine if it was safe for entry and also did not provide fall protection for the employees on the roof.

“Those employees working inside the building were in danger of being struck by collapsing sections of its roof, walls and framing members while those employees shoveling snow and ice atop the pitched roof lacked protection against falls of up to 22 feet,” said William Coffin, OSHA’s area director for Maine. “This disregard for basic, commonsense safety procedures and employee protections is as astonishing as it is unacceptable.”

For these struck-by and fall hazards, OSHA issued Maine Contract Farming two willful citations and proposed $140,000 in fines. OSHA defines a willful violation as one committed with plain indifference to or intentional disregard for employee safety and health.

OSHA’s inspection also found that employees working in other buildings on the farm were exposed to collapse hazards due to Maine Contract Farming’s failure to determine each roof’s weight-bearing capacity and to remove excess accumulations of snow and ice. In addition, employees operating powered industrial trucks were exposed to crushing injuries from not using seat belts while operating the vehicles.

These conditions resulted in OSHA issuing two serious citations, with $10,000 in proposed fines, to Maine Contract Farming. A serious citation is issued when death or serious physical harm is likely to result from a hazard about which the employer knew or should have known.

Maine Contract Farming has 15 business days from receipt of its citations to contest them before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.

TAGS: Archive OSHA
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