Company faces $117,000 in OSHA penalties

Multiple safety violations issued for company's alleged failure to protect workers from dangerous machinery, other hazards at Ohio facility.
Norwalk Reflector Staff
Mar 18, 2014

ConAgra Foods Inc. has been cited for multiple safety violations at its Columbus-based flour mill.

Most of the citations were issued because machines lacked proper guarding, one of the 10 most frequently cited standards by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration. The 13 safety violations, which include three repeat citations, carry proposed penalties of $117,000. OSHA initiated an inspection of the plant in September 2013 after receiving a complaint.

“Lack of machine guarding can lead to amputation and other serious injuries. Risk to workers can be avoided by maintaining adequate guards and following manufacturer-recommended safety procedures,” said Deborah Zubaty, OSHA’s area director in Columbus. “Employers cited for repeat violations demonstrate a lack of commitment to employee safety and health.”

Three repeat violations include lack of machine guarding on horizontal shafts in the flour mill, failing to provide all required information on OSHA injury and illness logs, and exposing workers to falls greater than 7 feet.

A repeat violation exists when an employer previously has been cited for the same or a similar violation of a standard, regulation, rule or order at any other facility in federal enforcement states within the last five years. The same violations were cited in 2011, 2010 and 2009 at facilities in Cranbury, N.J.; Turners Fall, Mass.; and Carol Stream, Ill., respectively.

Ten serious safety citations were also issued to the company. Seven of the citations were for inadequate machine guarding at work areas near moving machinery, shafts, fans, pulleys and chains. The other violations included failing to provide fall protection for workers retrieving samples from bins, not marking exits, inadequate forklift training and failing to have covers in place on an electrical junction box.

A serious violation occurs when there is substantial probability that death or serious physical harm could result from a hazard about which the employer knew or should have known.

To view the current citations, visit http://www.osha.gov/ooc/citation...

Omaha, Neb.-based ConAgra Foods is one of North America’s largest packaged food companies and employs more than 34,000. The Columbus flour mill employs 14.

OSHA last inspected the Columbus facility in 2005. That inspection resulted in the issuance of four citations and was a follow-up to a 2003 dust explosion at the facility, which caused the death of two workers and the hospitalization of one other. OSHA issued 12 citations during that investigation.

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

To ask questions, obtain compliance assistance, file a complaint, or report workplace hospitalizations, fatalities or situations posing imminent danger to workers, the public should call OSHA’s toll-free hotline at 800-321-OSHA (6742) or the agency’s Columbus Area Office at 614-469-5582.

Under the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970, employers are responsible for providing safe and healthful workplaces for their employees. OSHA’s role is to ensure these conditions for America’s working men and women by setting and enforcing standards, and providing training, education and assistance. For more information, visit http://www.osha.gov.