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Omega Protein faces fines after worker death

By Rod Addy , 19-Sep-2012
Last updated on 21-Sep-2012 at 10:52 GMT

Omega Protein faces fines of $79,200 following the death of a worker at its Moss Point processing plant in Jackson County, Mississippi after they were caught in a rotating screw conveyor.

The US Department of Labour’s Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) has cited the firm, which processes omega-3 fish oil and specialist fish meal products, with 25 health and safety violations.

The move follows an OSHA inspection of the Moss Point factory in April.

Serious violations

21 serious violations included failing to have employees affix personal lockout devices to a group lockout device; not developing and documenting procedures for controlling hazardous energy and not providing training for forklift operators.

OSHA also identified fall and electrical hazards and a lack of equipment guarding on rotating drums, fan blades and horizontal rotating shafts.

And it pinpointed a lack of guarding on the belts and pulleys of the grinding screw and hopper screw conveyor.

‘Terrible incident’

“This terrible incident could have been avoided if the employer had followed OSHA’s standards for energy control procedures,” said Clyde Payne, OSHA area director in Jackson County.

“It is the employer’s responsibility to make sure that employees are aware of and follow energy control procedures for their protection when working on any machinery.”

Proposed penalties for the serious violations total $79,200.

Omega Protein has 15 days from receipt of the citations and proposed penalties to comply, request an informal conference with the OSHA’s area director or contest the findings before an independent commission.

Official statement

Responding to the citations, Omega Protein said in an official statement: “Omega Protein has received the OSHA Citation and Notification of Penalty document and the company’s internal safety and training professionals are currently in the process of reviewing the report’s findings.

"At this time, the company has not yet determined whether it will contest any of the citations or the penalties outlined in the OSHA report. A decision on this matter will be made in the coming days.

Ben Landry, director of public affairs for the business, told FoodProductionDaily: "The company is proud of, and stands by, its robust safety training and compliance program instituted at all of our facilities. We will continue to provide our employees with the best safety training available to insure a safe working environment."

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