OSHA Proposes $108,500 in Fines Against Turner Egg Farm Operation

What comes first? Chickens, eggs or OSHA violations? At the former Decoster Egg Farm, OSHA appear to be the order of the day.

Follow-up inspections by the agency have resulted in a total of $108,500 in proposed penalties against four successor companies that now run the Turner, Maine, agri-business. The inspections were conducted to verify correction of previously cited hazards. Inspectors found recurrences of fall hazards, unsafe electrical equipment, defective manure trucks and an inadequately labeled jack.

"We must ensure that employers protect their workers from occupational hazards, so that injury and illness rates continue to decline," said U.S. Labor Secretary Elaine L. Chao. "The significant fines of $108,500 proposed in this case reflect both the seriousness of the hazards found here."

Cited for alleged willful, repeat or serious violations of the Occupational Safety and Health Act were Maine Contract Farming LLC, which operates the feeder mill, brooder barn system and egg-laying complex; PFS Loading Services LLC, which transports chickens; Maine Ag LLC, which packs and grades eggs; and Turner Maintenance and Services Inc., which performs maintenance.

Maine Contract Farming faces $75,700 in fines for three repeat citations for ungrounded, uncovered, unlabeled and unapproved electrical equipment and failing to maintain manure trucks in safe and sanitary condition; as well as two serious citations for excess air pressure in compressed air hoses used for cleaning and failing to ensure the use of seatbelts by manure truck operators. PFS Loading Services Inc. was issued a willful citation, with a $22,000 fine, for failing to provide fall protection for employees loading and lowering chicken cages from atop 12-foot-high semi-trailer roofs.

Maine Ag LLC was fined $6,800 for two repeat citations for ungrounded electrical enclosures and no strain relief for an electric cord, and two serious citations for worn electrical outlets and unprotected electrical conductors. Turner Maintenance and Services Inc. faces $4,000 in fines for a repeat citation for failing to legibly mark a portable jack with its lifting capacity, and one serious citation for an inadequately supported and equipped kerosene tank.

OSHA defines a willful violation as one committed with intentional disregard of, or plain indifference to, the requirements of the OSH Act and regulations. A serious violation is defined as a condition that exists where there is a substantial possibility that death or serious physical harm to an employee can result. A repeat citation is issued when an employer has been cited for a substantially similar violation and that citation has become final.

Each company has 15 business days from receipt of its citations and proposed penalties to pay the fines, request and participate in an informal conference with the OSHA area director or to contest them before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.

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