OSHA has cited Wayne Farms LLC for allegedly exposing workers to musculoskeletal, machinery and fall hazards at its poultry-processing plant in Jack, Ala.
Oakwood, Ga.-based Wayne Farms, which makes products under the brand names Dutch Quality House and Platinum Harvest, received 11 citations carrying $102,600 in total fines.
A complaint from the Southern Poverty Law Center initiated OSHA’s investigation.
“Our investigation revealed that employees suffered musculoskeletal injuries, and Wayne Farms failed to record those injuries and properly manage the medical treatment of injured employees at the facility,” said Joseph Roesler, OSHA’s area director in Mobile. “By failing to report injuries, failing to refer employees to physicians and discouraging employees from seeking medical treatment, Wayne Farms effectively concealed the extent to which these poultry-plant workers were suffering work-related injuries and illnesses. And as a result, it reported an artificially lower injury and illness rate.”
OSHA cited Wayne Farms for a repeat violation – carrying a penalty of $38,500 – for the company’s alleged failure to protect workers from moving parts of a machine during servicing and maintenance work. OSHA alleges that the plant lacked lockout/tagout procedures for maintaining a plastic strapping machine, which it failed to do following a previous OSHA inspection in February 2012 at the company’s Enterprise, Ala., facility.
OSHA cited the company for seven serious violations – carrying penalties of $49,000 – for exposing workers to unguarded machines, slippery floors and fall hazards.
OSHA issued two more serious general-duty-clause citations for alleged musculoskeletal-disorder hazards, carrying penalties of $14,000.
The agency issued one general-duty-clause citation for exposing employees on the debone line to hazards while performing prolonged, repetitive, forceful tasks, often while using awkward postures.
OSHA issued the second general-duty citation for exposing employees to the stressors of repetitive lifting and carrying of totes filled with chicken that can weigh more than 75 pounds.
The agency issued another violation, with a $1,100 penalty, for failing to record serious work-related injuries on OSHA’s 300 form, as required.
“The outcome of this investigation deepened our concern about musculoskeletal hazards in poultry plants, where employees are at increased risk of developing carpal tunnel syndrome and other disorders that affect the nerves, muscles and tendons,” OSHA Administrator Dr. David Michaels said.
Wayne Farms is the sixth-largest vertically integrated poultry producer in the United States. Since 1994, OSHA has conducted 33 inspections at Wayne Farms facilities in Alabama, Georgia and Mississippi. The most recent inspection at the Jack, Ala., plant was conducted in June 2011 when the company was cited for recordkeeping violations.
On Aug. 1, the U.S. departments of Agriculture and Labor mailed a joint letter to all poultry plants regarding their responsibility to prevent work-related musculoskeletal disorders.
“These types of injuries are preventable by implementing appropriate engineering and administrative controls in the workplace, and when they occur, they must be treated early with appropriate medical care to prevent the illness from progressing,” Michaels said. “However, in this plant, OSHA found workers were often required to seek assistance from the company’s on-site nurse many times before they were referred to a physician.”
Wayne Farms has 15 business days from receipt of the citations to comply or contest OSHA’s findings.