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US: $380,000 in penalties against poultry processor

The U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is proposing $379,800 in penalties against Mar-Jac Poultry Inc. for safety and health violations at its Gainesville, Ga., facility.

The company is being cited with 4 willful violations with a proposed penalty of $252,000 for failing to update its hazard analysis in 5 year intervals as required, to establish specific procedures to maintain the integrity of process equipment and to institute equipment and procedural changes for the ammonia refrigeration system in 2004, 2005 and 2008. The OSHA says the employer also has failed to perform the required compliance audits for 2000, 2003 and 2007. OSHA defines a willful violation as one committed with plain indifference to or intentional disregard for employee safety and health.

The plant is being cited with 37 serious safety and health violations for $127,800 in proposed penalties. The safety hazards include: a lack of proper machine guarding, uncovered floor holes, obstructed emergency exit routes, a lockout/tagout device not being affixed to electrical disconnect and portable fire extinguishers not being readily available. The health violations include failing to establish a maintenance program to ensure the reliability of the ammonia refrigeration system, implement noise controls and develop an emergency response plan for employees responding to ammonia emergencies. Additionally, 2 other-than-serious violations were found, but no penalty was assessed.

"Mar-Jac Poultry management should not wait until a serious injury or death occurs to any of its workers before making the necessary changes to its safety and health programme," said Gei-Thae Breezley, director of OSHA's Atlanta-East Area Office. "When a company knows and continues to ignore its responsibilities OSHA will step in to protect the workers."

The company has 15 business days from receipt of the citations to comply, request an informal conference with the OSHA area director or contest the citations and proposed penalties before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.

Natalie Berkhout

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