The Occupational Safety and Health Administration has fined Case Farms Processing Inc.—a leading supplier of chicken to national fast food and supermarket brands—$861,500 after inspectors cited the company’s Ohio processing plant with 55 violations following their most recent visit.
“Case Farms is an outrageously dangerous place to work. In the past 25 years, Case Farms has been cited for more than 350 safety and health violations,” says David Michaels, assistant secretary of labor for OSHA. “Despite committing to OSHA that it would eliminate serious hazards, Case Farms continues to endanger the safety and health of its workers. This simply must stop.”
OSHA says employees of the company are routinely exposed to the dangers of amputation, electrocution and hazardous falls. It adds the company was aware of the dangers, but continued to expose workers to serious and potentially fatal injuries.
Headquartered in Troutman, NC, Case Farms processes 2.8 million chickens per week at seven facilities in North Carolina and Ohio. It has more than 3,200 employees and produces more than 900 million pounds of fresh, partially cooked and frozen-for-export poultry products annually. Its Ohio facilities are located in Canton, Strasburg, Massillon and Winesburg. In North Carolina, Case Farms operates in Dudley, Goldsboro, Mount Olive and Morganton.
Acting on a referral, OSHA cited the company on August 13 for two willful, 20 repeat, 30 serious and three other-than-serious safety and health violations. OSHA assessed $861,500 in penalties and added the company to the agency’s Severe Violator Enforcement Program.
According to OSHA, this program concentrates resources on inspecting employers that have demonstrated indifference to their OSH Act obligations by willful, repeated or failure to-abate violations.
During the recent February 2015 inspection that resulted in the citations, OSHA found:
-Fall hazards due to non-functioning fall-arrest systems, unprotected platforms and wet work surfaces
-Lack of personal protective equipment
-Numerous violations of electrical safety standards
-Improperly stored oxygen cylinders
-Lack of emergency eyewash stations.
Case Farms has an extensive history of health and safety violations. Since 1988, OSHA and the Occupational Safety and Health Division of North Carolina’s Department of Labor have inspected Case Farms’ facilities in North Carolina and Ohio 66 times, with citations issued as a result of 42 of those inspections. A majority of the inspections were initiated after worker injuries, complaints or referrals.
In 2013, the company agreed to address safety violations in a settlement agreement with OSHA after being cited for exposing workers to dangerous machinery and other hazards at its Winesburg facility. However, follow-up inspections led to the issuance of citations. (Case Farms has contested those citations.) OSHA is currently investigating Case Farms facilities in Canton, OH after receiving reports of employee injuries there.