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An administrative law judge of the Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission affirmed two items of a serious citation issued to a poultry processor after an employee’s partial thumb amputation, but vacated a third item.
On Aug. 4, 2016, an employee of Moselle, Mississippi-based Southern Hens Inc. lost a portion of her thumb when it became caught in the drive mechanism of the machine she was cleaning, according to the ruling in Secretary of Labor v. Southern Hens Inc. published Tuesday. Following the incident, the Jackson, Mississippi, area office of the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration conducted an inspection of the facility and issued a three-item serious citation.
The first two items alleged violations of the lockout standard for failure to have clear written procedures and failure to follow those procedures during machine cleaning operations while the third item alleged a violation of the machine guarding standard.
A total penalty of $19,134 was proposed for the violations, but the administrative law judge vacated the alleged lockout standard violation after determining that the Secretary of Labor failed to meet the burden to show the standard was violated and assessed a $12,000 for the affirmed violations.
“Although I agree with the secretary, the record revealed a lack of consistency in understanding and implementation of Southern Hens’s lockout procedures for the two sanitation operations, I do not agree this constitutes a violation of the cited standard,” the judge stated. “By its terms, the cited standard addresses only the requirement that the procedures articulate lockout steps. It is concerned with the ‘how’ of the lockout procedures, not the ‘when’.”
The administrative law judge’s decision became a final order of the commission on Monday.
An attorney for the company could not be immediately reached for comment.
The Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission denied a petition to review an order by one of its administrative law judges even though the commission agreed that the judge’s order was erroneous.