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Safety citations filed after worker loses fingertip upheld

OSHA citations

The Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission affirmed the assessment of nearly $20,000 in citations against a sanitation company for violations uncovered after an employee lost part of a finger in a workplace accident.

In Secretary of Labor v. Packers Sanitation Services Inc., an administrative law judge with the commission held that Packers Sanitation Services, based in Kieler, Wisconsin, failed to guard a quill puller machine and ensure walking services were safe for employees

On April 17, 2017, a worker was hosing off a quill puller as part of his overnight shift cleaning a poultry processing facility in Gainesville, Georgia. He stepped too close to the quill puller, which uses two rapidly rotating augers to catch and pull out feathers, and an auger caught his glove, pulling his hand into the machine and resulting in the amputation of a fingertip. He reported his injury and was driven to the emergency room for treatment.

The U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration investigated the facility eight days later. Although the company said it had a lockout-tagout policy regarding the machines, including the quill puller, its machine guard policy and employees stated that the company uses a rule requiring employees to stay at least 2 feet away from operating machines they are cleaning. The investigators said they also observed several floor drains missing part or all of their covers and noted that the incident was not recorded on the company’s Form 300 log.

OSHA investigators cited Packers for two serious and one other-than-serious safety violation. Packers argued that the case should be dismissed in its entirety because the inspection took place before Packers workers had begun their shift, and that therefore, “OSHA never inspected (Packers’) workplace.” Packers further contended that it placed orange cones around both sides of missing or broken drains prior to a shift to alert employees of the hazard and noted that it does not own the drain covers for which it was being cited.

The law judge affirmed the citations except for one, holding that the record established that Packers employees were exposed to unsafe conditions during their assigned duties. While the orange cones notified employees of a risk, Packers did not prohibit them from stepping over drains, the commission found. Therefore, she determined that Packers had actual knowledge of the risk and affirmed the $4,527 fine.

The judge also held that Packers did not have a specific rule in place prohibiting employees from cleaning machines like a quill puller while it was running or requiring them to lock out the machine first. Inspectors had noted that there were no lines to demarcate a two-foot perimeter or a physical barrier to the point of operation. The judge said that training employees to mentally observe a two-foot rule was “insufficient” to comply with OSHA standards and “inadequate to protect employees.” The judge held that Packers had constructive knowledge of the violative condition and affirmed the penalty of $12,675 for that violation.

The judge also affirmed OSHA’s citation of an other-than-serious violation for failing to provide current copies of records within four business hours after they’ve been requested, and affirmed the penalty of $1,811 for that violation.

The decision became the final order of the commission Monday. Attorneys for Packers Sanitation did not immediately respond to emails for comment.



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