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Injury-causing violations continue to plague food manufacturer Schwan


A food manufacturer praised last month by the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration for accepting responsibility for workplace safety violations and agreeing to correct the hazards is facing more than $172,000 in newly proposed fines from the agency after two employees suffered amputations and another suffered burns and lacerations.

OSHA cited Marshall, Minnesota-based Schwan's Global Supply Inc. for three repeat, four serious and one other-than-serious safety violation after agency inspectors found Schwan's exposed workers to amputations and other serious hazards, according to an agency news release issued on Thursday.

In August 2015, a 55-year-old worker was picking up pizza crumbs and crust that had collected around the oven when her work glove was caught in the unguarded conveyor chain and sprocket drive assembly and surgeons had to amputate her right hand, according to the release.

In September 2015, a 49-year-old employee reached into the area of the conveyor to clear a jam of pizza pans and sustained a laceration, fractures and burns to the palm of her left hand. OSHA investigators determined safety guards were not installed on operating parts between the top and bottom conveyors and the machine should have been prevented from operating while unjamming the pizza pans, according to the release.

In October 2015, a 55-year-old employee's middle finger on her left hand was amputated after coming into contact with an unguarded chain and sprocket on the underside of a conveyor, according to the release.

“Three women's lives were dramatically altered because their employer failed to protect them from hazardous operating machinery parts,” Judy Freeman, OSHA area director in Wichita, Kansas, said in a statement. “Each year, thousands of workers like these suffer amputation and other injuries that are preventable when basic safety guards are in place and proper procedures are followed. Schwan's needs to protect their workers, and they need to do it now.”

OSHA had previously cited Schwan's for repeated violations, including failing to ensure workers used safety procedures to prevent the unexpected startup of machinery during maintenance and servicing, failing to ensure machines were properly guarded and for not implementing safety procedures for ammonia refrigeration systems, but the company told OSHA it accepted responsibility for the hazards and signed a pre-citation settlement agreement on Jan. 15.

The latest OSHA investigations also identified other safety hazards such as personal protective equipment that did not properly fit, storage of oxygen cylinders near highly combustible material and exit routes that did not meet height and width requirements, according to the release.

The company is a subsidiary of The Schwan Food Co., which sells popular frozen food brands in North America including Red Baron, Tony's and Freschetta frozen pizza and Mrs. Smith's desserts.

Schwan is "committed to ensuring the safety of the employees and contractors who work at our facilities," a spokesman said in a email. "In that spirit, we appreciate OSHA's findings. We are using the information gained from OSHA to improve our processes, and we are moving forward with their recommendations. Safety is a top priority, and we continuously work to enhance our safety processes and work environment."

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