A Nestlé subsidiary is facing fines of almost three quarters of a million dollars following the death of a worker at its Massachusetts production plant.
The US Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) cited Tribe Mediterranean Foods, who manufacture Tribe brand hummus, for 18 alleged violations and proposed fines totalling US$702,300 (€557.100).
OSHA opened the investigation in December last year after a contract employee who was cleaning and sanitizing a machine used in the manufacturing process was caught, pulled into the machine and crushed to death between two rotating augers.
OSHA’s investigation found that the company had not trained the deceased and six other workers who cleaned plant machinery on hazardous energy control or “lockout/tagout” procedures.
The purpose of lockout/tagout procedures is to ensure that the machines are not operating, and cannot unexpectedly activate and harm workers.
List of citations
OSHA issued two willful citations, for failing to adequately train maintenance workers to recognize hazardous energy sources, and for failing to develop and utilize lockout/tagout procedures.
Tribe Mediterranean Foods has been issued citations covering six serious violations for electrical, slipping, fall, pallet jack and additional machine guarding hazards.
Three repeat violations citations have been issued for failing to conduct periodic inspections of the energy control procedures, inadequate guarding of rotating blades on blending tanks, and an exposed chain and sprocket on a conveyor.
Tribe Mediterranean Foods, doing business as FoodTech International Inc., was cited in October 2009, for similar hazards at its New Haven, Connecticut plant.
The company has been placed in OSHA’s Severe Violator Enforcement Program, for targeted follow-up inspections to ensure compliance with the law.
‘Needless and avoidable loss of life’
“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,” said Dr. David Michaels, assistant secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health.
“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.”
Tribe Mediterranean Foods has 15 business days to comply with the proposed penalties, request a meeting with OSHA or contest the fines.
Tribe Mediterranean Foods is a subsidiary of Tivall 1993, which is owned by Osem Investments Limited, a subsidiary of Nestlé.