The Occupational Safety and Health Administration has slammed the nation’s largest poultry processor, Tyson Foods, with more than $263,000 in fines after an unguarded conveyor belt in Tyson’s Center, Texas, plant, caught a worker’s finger and dragged his hand into a deboning machine – amputating the finger.
OSHA’s probe after that accident, starting in February and running through July, found 15 serious workplace safety violations and two repeated violations at the plant.
They involved amputation hazards, worker exposure to high levels of carbon dioxide and parcetic acid, lack of protective equipment for their hands, eyes and faces, and no safety guards on machine parts and catwalks, OSHA reports show.
The Texas plant also featured slip-and-fall hazards due to lack of proper drainage and improperly stored compressed oxygen and acetylene.
OSHA said the worker, who was not identified in the inspection reports, had his finger amputated by the machine when he was trying to remove chicken parts jammed in its conveyor belt.
“Tyson Foods must do much more to prevent disfiguring injuries like this one from happening,” said OSHA Administrator Dr. David Michaels, a public health specialist. “As one of the nation’s largest food suppliers, it should set an example for workplace safety rather than drawing multiple citations from OSHA for ongoing safety failures.”
Tyson is not alone in occupational hazards for poultry workers. Recent reports by Oxfam America and the nonpartisan Government Accountability Office have found the industry as a whole is rife with job safety violations – and companies’ refusal to address hazards.
This is not the first time OSHA has gone after Tyson. It found similar violations at other Tyson plants in Texas and Alabama in prior years, leading to the “repeater” citations at Center.
And almost three years ago, OSHA put Tyson as a whole into its Severe Violators Enforcement Program – the program reserved for the worst of the worst among job safety and health violators – after a worker’s hand was severed at its Hutchinson, Kansas, plant, also by an unguarded conveyor belt. It fined Tyson $147,000 in that case.
Both fines pale compared to Tyson’s 9-month revenues of $37.6 billion in 2015, and profits of $864 million. Tyson reports both revenues and profits rose so far this year.