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OSHA serves chicken processor nearly $1.9 million in fines

OSHA serves chicken processor nearly $1.9 million in fines

A North Carolina chicken processor is facing nearly $1.9 million in combined fines after being cited again by federal regulators for workplace safety violations.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration cited Troutman, North Carolina-based Case Farms for 11 repeat, four serious and two other-than-serious violations last week at its Winesburg, Ohio, plant, according to a news release issued by the agency on Tuesday. OSHA also cited the company's Canton, Ohio, facility for five repeated and three serious violations, according to the release. The violations were issued for deficiencies in ammonia refrigeration systems, according to the agency.

“Case Farms needs to protect its workers. Period,” said David Michaels, assistant secretary of labor for occupational safety and health. “The company has a 25-year track record of failing to comply with federal workplace safety standards. OSHA will remain vigilant until the company keeps its workers safe by making needed improvements to equipment, procedures and training.”

OSHA has proposed $462,000 in combined penalties for these latest citations, bringing the total fines Case Farms is facing this year up to $1.87 million.

“While we do not deem it appropriate to comment on ongoing administrative matters, we do not agree with the negative characterizations that have been made about our company and our employees,” Case Farms said in a statement. “We value our employees and are committed to providing a safe and healthy work environment. The citations are being reviewed, and we will work with OSHA, as we have in the past, to address the concerns outlined in the citations.”

Case Farms was cited in 2011 for many of the same violations, with the agency's follow-up inspection finding 16 repeated and five serious violations of process safety management procedures for ammonia refrigeration systems used in Canton and Winesburg, according to OSHA. Inspectors found the company lacked clear, written operating procedures, failed to test and inspect systems and did not provide adequate training for workers, the agency said.

In 2013, Case Farms reached a settlement agreement with OSHA after an inspection found workers exposed to dangerous machinery and other hazards at its Winesburg plant, but follow-up inspections led to citations issued in May and again in August 2015.

In August, the company was also placed in OSHA's Severe Violator Enforcement Program, which focuses resources on inspecting employers who, according to the agency, have demonstrated indifference to their Occupational Safety and Health Act obligations through willful, repeated or failure-to-abate violations.

In September, OSHA cited Case Farms for exposing workers to amputation, fall, electrical and other serious hazards after two workers suffered amputations while cleaning machines at the Canton facility.

Case Farms has contested all citations issued, according to OSHA.

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