Montgomery Food Processor Faces OSHA Citations, Penalties

Jan. 7, 2004
David Safley was electrocuted holding a pair of wire strippers in his hands, after his managers failed to heed his warning about the difficulty of making repairs to a malfunctioning light fixture.

Safley, an electrician at ConAgra Foods Refrigerated Foods Co. Inc.'s Montgomery, Ala., processing plant, was one of several workers who received a shock on July 8 while attempting to repair the fixture. Safley, after advising management that repairs should wait until the next day, was told to go ahead and fix the light. He was found in an attic crawl space by coworkers around 7 p.m. the next day.

Following an investigation of the incident, OSHA cited the company for failing to protect workers from electrical hazards. The agency is proposing penalties totaling $92,000.

On the day of the accident, company officials reportedly instructed employees to repair a malfunctioning overhead light fixture. The workers, unable to locate the correct circuit breaker because none were labeled, tried to trip the appropriate breaker by "short circuiting" the line, an unsafe work practice. The breaker did not trip and one worker received an electrical shock. A worker then cut a neutral wire in the electrical junction box, left it unprotected and informed a supervisor that repairs would be made the next morning.

Night-staff employees were not advised that a repair had been attempted, the condition of the wiring or the plan to complete the fixture installation the next morning.

Another repair was attempted during the night shift. Again, two employees each received an electrical shock when they tried at different times to identify the circuit by "shorting" the breaker. Safley was one of those employees.

When co-workers found him, Safley was still in contact with the 277-volt electrical circuit.

"This worker might still be alive if this company had followed its own safe work practices and OSHA regulations," said Ken Atha, OSHA's Mobile area director.

OSHA issued one willful citation with a proposed penalty of $55,000 for allowing employees to work on energized electrical circuits without using safe electrical work practices.

The company received two serious citations with proposed penalties of $12,000 for exposing employees to electrical hazards by allowing unqualified employees to work on energized electrical circuits and by failing to provide employees with personal protective equipment.

The agency also issued one repeat citation to the company with a proposed penalty of $25,000 for failing to properly label circuit breakers at a switch panel box.

A spokesperson for ConAgra Foods said the company "has received the citations for alleged hazards in the workplace and notice of penalty and is now reviewing it."

The company has 15 working days to contest the OSHA citations and proposed penalties before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.

About the Author

Sandy Smith

Sandy Smith is the former content director of EHS Today, and is currently the EHSQ content & community lead at Intelex Technologies Inc. She has written about occupational safety and health and environmental issues since 1990.

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