Case Farms Fined $1.2M For Worker Injury CasesOctober 9, 2015
Officials with the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration fined Case Farms more than $1.2 million in the last two months for the company’s role in several worker injury cases. The North Carolina-based agricultural giant processes more than 2.8 million chickens every week and operates seven facilities in North Carolina and Ohio. The worker injury cases stem from more than a dozen incidents at the company’s plants, including one in which an employee lost two fingertips and another in which a teenage contract employee had his leg amputated.
Details of Fines in Worker Injury Cases
The OSHA fines stem from numerous worker injury cases at the various Case plants. The agency fined Case more than $861,000 and placed the company in its Severe Violator Enforcement Program. After more reports of repeated violations, OSHA proposed additional fines of more than $424,000 in late September. The agency also fined the owners of Cal-Clean, a provider of contract labor to Case Farms, an additional $179,700 for its role in at least ten worker injury cases.
Worker Injury Cases Include Amputations
The most severe worker injury cases include one in which a 17-year-old Cal-Clean employee lost most of his lower left leg in a machine accident in April. The young man was cleaning a liver-giblet chiller machine when his leg got caught in the machine’s workings. Less than a month before, a 24-year-old Case employee lost parts of his right middle and ring fingers in a machine designed to such the fat from chicken carcasses. The rash of worker injury cases led to an extensive OSHA investigation of all of the company’s plants.
Employees Fired After Reporting Worker Injury Cases
The OSHA investigation revealed that Case officials terminated some employees after they reported their worker injury cases. The worker who lost his fingertips in the fat sucking machine was suspended for ten days and later fired. The worker had been employed at the plant for over 18 months at the time of the incident. The teenager who lost his leg was unable to return to work after his injury and was also fired. He had only been working at the plant for a few weeks before the incident.
OSHA Sites Long History of Worker Injury Cases
The agency also disclosed a long history of worker injury cases at various Case plants. This past summer, OSHA investigated reports of defects in the ammonia refrigeration system at a plant in Canton, Ohio. Slow leaks in the system could lead to toxic ammonia exposure, which can burn the lungs, eyes, and nasal passages. Another investigation at the Canton plant found that workers showed symptoms of a foodborne illness from handling chickens. Howard Eberts, OSHA’s area director in Cleveland, told reporters that Case “has done little to change a corporate culture” that leads to such devastating worker injury cases in the last 25 years.
Source: Insurance Journal:
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