Wayne Farms has been cited by the U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) for exposing workers at its plant in Jack, Alabama, to dangerous machinery, fall and musculoskeletal disorder hazards. OSHA issued 11 citations to the poultry processing plant, including nine serious, one repeat and one other-than serious violation. Proposed penalties against Wayne Farms amount to $102,600.
The investigation was initiated after OSHA received a complaint from the Southern Poverty Law Center.
"OSHA found that workers in this plant were exposed to safety and musculoskeletal hazards and suffered serious injuries as a result. The outcome of this investigation deepened our concern about musculoskeletal hazards in poultry plants, where employees are at increased risk of developing carpal tunnel syndrome and other disorders that affect the nerves, muscles and tendons," said Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health Dr. David Michaels."These types of injuries are preventable by implementing appropriate engineering and administrative controls in the workplace, and when they occur, they must be treated early with appropriate medical care to prevent the illness from progressing. However, in this plant, OSHA found workers were often required to seek assistance from the company's on-site nurse many times before they were referred to a physician."
Wayne Farms, according to an OSHA spokesman, also failed to record injuries and properly manage the treatment of injured employees at the plant in Jack.
"By failing to report injuries, failing to refer employees to physicians and discouraging employees from seeking medical treatment, Wayne Farms effectively concealed the extent to which these poultry plant workers were suffering work-related injuries and illnesses. And as a result, it reported an artificially lower injury and illness rate," said Joseph Roesler, OSHA’s area director in Mobile, Alabama.
One repeat violation, with a penalty of $38,500, was cited for the employer's failure to protect workers from moving parts of a machine during servicing and maintenance work.
Seven serious violations, carrying penalties of $49,000, involve exposing workers to serious safety hazards, including unguarded machines, slippery floors and fall hazards. In addition, OSHA issued two more serious general duty clause citations for musculoskeletal disorder hazards with penalties of $14,000. One general duty clause citation was issued for exposing employees on the debone line to hazards while performing prolonged, repetitive, forceful tasks, often while using awkward postures. OSHA issued the second general duty citation for exposing employees to the stressors of repetitive lifting and carrying of totes filled with chicken that can weigh in excess of 75 pounds.
Another violation, with a $1,100 penalty, was cited for failing to record serious work-related injuries on OSHA's 300 form for tracking work-related injuries and illnesses, as required.
Prior to the most recent OSHA inspection, Wayne Farms’ plant in Jack was last inspected in June 2011, when the company was cited for record-keeping violations.
Wayne Farms, the sixth largest poultry company in the United States, processes 328 million chickens annually, according to the WATT Global Media Top Companies Database.
The company has 15 business days from receipt of the citations and proposed penalties to contest the findings.
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