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OSHA cites hummus processing plant after fatal workplace accident

Hundreds and even thousands of workers in North Carolina and across the country are involved in workplace accidents each year. These accidents can often have catastrophic consequences, whether a worker is seriously injured or killed.

Recently, a hummus processing plant was slapped with $540,000 in fines from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration for 18 violations. However, these fines came too late to save one worker who was killed as a result of employer negligence of safety hazards.

The worker was cleaning the plant after hours of operation, including machinery that blended the hummus using 9-inch rotating blades. During the work accident in 2011, the worker was cleaning the inside of the machine when he got stuck. Co-workers helped the injured worker escape, but not before his arms and part of his head were mangled by the blades. He died during transportation to a local hospital.

The year before the tragic accident, the company employed a consultant to review safety conditions at the plant. The consultant advised that  certain safety hazards existed at the plant and unless the company addressed them, they likely and eventual outcome would be a fatal accident. Unfortunately, the company did not heed the expert's advice following the consultation.

OSHA cited the highest level of penalties for three particular violations, one of which included a method called the “lock out/tag out,” which holds employers accountable for training and requiring workers to turn off major machinery while cleaning or maintaining the devices. OSHA stated in their report that the company knew of its improper “lock out/tag out” procedures for over two years and chose to neglect to resolve its procedures. The company had stated that executing the training was too expensive.   

Employers have a responsibility to provide safe working conditions and appropriate training to their employees. Unfortunately, the threat of OSHA fines or employee injuries is not always enough to prompt compliance and negligent employers allow dangerous conditions to exist.

If you have suffered from a workplace accident due to employer negligence, then the consultation of an experienced attorney might help you to understand your rights and legal options. 

Source: The Boston Globe, "Company 'willfully ignored' safety standards in worker's death," Megan Woolhouse and Michael Grabell, May 22, 2014

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