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OSHA fines Taunton Company over $700,000 for Violating Workplace Safety Standards

Tribe Mediterranean Foods, a subsidiary of Nestle SA, was cited by the U.S. Department of Labor’sOccupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) for 18 violations of workplace safety standards following the death of an employee at its production plant in Taunton, MA.

The employee was cleaning and sanitizing a machine used in manufacturing hummus when he was caught, pulled into the machines and crushed to death. OSHA discovered that the deceased worker, as well as six other workers who cleaned plant machinery, had not been trained on hazardous energy control or “lockout/tagout” procedures. These procedures are mandatory and teach employees to shut down machines and lockout their power sources before proceeding to clean or perform maintenance on them.

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OSHA requires employers to train workers so that they understand the purpose of the energy control procedures, and so that they can safely utilize them. The purpose of lockout/tagout procedures is to ensure that machines are not operating and cannot unexpectedly turn on and harm workers.

Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health, Dr. David Michaels, said, “The employer knew it needed to train these workers so they could protect themselves against just this type of hazard but failed to do so. The result was a needless and avoidable loss of life. In this case, Tribe Mediterranean Foods’ knowledge and continuous disregard for an obvious and deadly hazard was so pronounced that we are issuing seven willful citations for lack of training, one for each untrained worker exposed to the hazard.”

OSHA has also issued two citations for additional willful violations for failing to train maintenance workers to adequately recognize hazardous energy sources and for failing to implement lockout/tagout procedures. OSHA defines a willful violation as, “one committed with intentional knowing or voluntary disregard for the law’s requirements, or with plain indifference to worker safety and health.”

Also, three repeat violations have been issued for failing to conduct periodic inspections of the energy control procedures, inadequate guarding of rotating blades and an exposed chain and sprocket conveyor. A repeat violation occurs when, “an employer previously has been cited for the same or a similar violation of a standard, regulation, rule or order at any facility in federal enforcement states within the last five years.” OSHA cited them previously in 2009 in New Haven, CT for similar hazards.

Lastly, Tribe Mediterranean Foods has been issued citations for six serious violations for electrical, fall, slipping, pallet jack and other machine guarding dangers. When all is said and done, Tribe Mediterranean Foods faces $702,300 in fines.
The workers’ compensation carrier insuring Tribe Mediterranean Foods through parent company OSEM Foods is Liberty Mutual Insurance Co.

Pulgini & Norton, LLP attorneys have handled workers’ compensation claims for over 25 years in and around Boston and its surrounding areas. If you or a family member has been injured at work and would like to seek legal assistance, please contact us at (781) 843-2200 or (888) 344-2046 or email us.

Cited Sources:

US Labor Department’s OSHA cites Tribe Mediterranean Foods for safety violations following death of a worker in Taunton, Mass. Employees lacked necessary training to prevent ‘needless and avoidable loss of life’, OSHA Regional News Release, June 18, 2012

Mass. food plant cited by OSHA after worker death, boston.com, June 18, 2012

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