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Double Amputation at Meat Plant Leads to OSHA Fines

A gruesome accident triggered an OSHA inspection and citations for two companies for safety violations that contributed to a Montgomery beef processing plant accident that cost a worker both his legs. The agency fined BMS Contract Services $77,000 for one serious and two repeat violations and S&C Beef Processors $22,500 for one willful violation of safety standards.

At its Montgomery plant, S&C produces beef products for food service operators and restaurants. BMS, which began operations at the facility in 1999, is a contractor hired to clean and sanitize the processing machinery.

At the end of each day's shift, S&C employees dismantle the primary meat grinder and turn it over to BMS for cleaning. To meet the deadline for the start of the next shift, BMS employees often enter the grinder before plant employees have completed their preparations and officially turned over the machine. On June 23, an S&C worker started the grinder to facilitate removal of the screw auger, not knowing that a BMS employee had already climbed inside the grinder to begin cleaning it. The victim's legs were caught in the machine and amputated.

"Although the S&C employee did not see the BMS sanitation worker inside the grinder, this tragedy could have been prevented if just one of the companies had implemented its own lockout program and properly transferred control of the equipment prior to any employees being exposed to the moving equipment parts," said Ken Atha, OSHA's Mobile acting area director.

Related to the accident, BMS received citations for two repeat and one serious violation, all of which concerned failure to render machinery inoperable during cleaning. The company was also cited for not training workers to use and remove lockout devices. In this case, because the two employees involved in the cleaning process spoke no English, training in Spanish would have been required. BMS had been cited previously by OSHA on April 7, 2000 after similar violations resulted in an amputation at the same plant.

OSHA also cited S&C for one willful violation after learning that their employees were not protected from the same unexpected start-up while they removed the grinder's guard, blades and screw auger. The OSHA investigation revealed that S&C had proper lockout procedures developed, but managers did not require employees to affix de-energizing locks at the grinder. A willful violation is one committed with an intentional disregard of, or plain indifference to, the requirements of the Occupational Safety and Health Act and regulations.

S&C Beef Processors, a wholly owned subsidiary of ConAgra Foods, employs 550 workers at the Montgomery processing plant. Burlington, Iowa-based BMS Contract Services has an average of 48 employees at this location.

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