OSHA Cites Poultry Processing Plant for Safety and Health Hazards, Lack of Safety Training

May 15, 2003

OSHA has issued citations and proposed penalties totaling $45,500 to Valley Fresh, Inc., Talmo, Ga., for exposing workers to multiple hazards. The company was also cited for failing to implement required safety and health procedures and to train workers.

Valley Fresh received 19 serious citations, including failure to maintain an effective program and procedures to render machinery inoperable during maintenance and cleaning. Other citations were for improperly guarded machinery and failure to implement a respirator protection program, including medical evaluations, fit-testing and training for employees. Proposed penalties total $44,500.

Additionally, the company was charged with failing to: review and update its plan for controlling the exposure of workers to bloodborne pathogens; failure to train employees on the hazards of bloodborne pathogens and offer them Hepatitis B vaccinations; failure to protect employees from noise exposure and maintain an effective hearing conservation program; and failure to provide required medical exams and training for technicians handling hazardous materials.

The citations further alleged that the company improperly locked exit doors and exposed workers to electrical hazards. The agency issued five other-than-serious citations with additional proposed penalties totaling $1,000.

"Accident prevention is key to a safe workplace," said G.T. Breezley, OSHA's Atlanta-East area director. "The wide range of alleged violations at Valley Fresh placed employees at considerable risk for injury or illness."

The company has 15 working days from receipt of the citations to either comply, request an informal conference with the OSHA area director, or contest the citations and proposed penalties before the Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.

OSHA issues serious citations when there is a substantial probability that death or serious physical harm could result from a hazard about which an employer knew or should have known.

OSHA Releases 2003-2008 Strategic Management Plan Goals

John L. Henshaw, Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health (OSHA), unveiled OSHA's new strategic management plan in a speech at the American Industrial Hygiene Conference and Expo on Monday, May 12, 2003 in Dallas, Tex.

"We can make a difference in the lives of working men and women in this country today," said Henshaw. "Every day, we strive to make the workplace safer for workers in this country. Our new plan will give us a clear roadmap to reach our goals."

Under the new plan, OSHA's three overarching goals are to:

  • Reduce occupational hazards through direct intervention
  • Promote a safety and health culture through compliance assistance, cooperative programs and strong leadership
  • Maximize OSHA's effectiveness and efficiency by strengthening its capabilities and infrastructure.

OSHA's goal is to reduce workplace fatalities by 15% and workplace injuries and illnesses by 20% by 2008. Each year, OSHA will emphasize specific areas to achieve this broader goal; for example, in 2003-2004 OSHA's goal is a three percent drop in construction fatalities and a one percent drop in general industry fatalities, as well as a four percent drop in injuries and illnesses in construction, general industry, and specific industries with high hazard rates including landscaping/horticultural services, oil and gas field services, blast furnace and basic steel products, ship and boat building and repair, and other high hazard industries.

OSHA's strategic management plan also covers issues not traditionally addressed by the agency but that nevertheless account for many work-related injuries, illnesses and deaths, such as workplace violence and work-related motor vehicle accidents. OSHA intends to use a variety of cooperative programs and outreach efforts to assist employers and employees in addressing these problems. In addition, the agency will focus on emergency preparedness, helping workplaces get ready to respond to workplace emergencies such as natural disasters or terrorist attacks.

The new plan will support the Department of Labor's Strategic Plan that will be issued later this year.

Under OSHA's 1997-2002 strategic plan, injuries and illnesses declined in the 100,000 workplaces where there were direct OSHA interventions (such as the consultation program to help small business address its needs); amputations declined by 24% and lead exposures by 69% -- the original goal was a 15% reduction in each; fatalities in construction declined 9.5% -- just short of the original goal of 11%; and injuries and illnesses were cut by 47% at worksites engaged in cooperative relationships with OSHA.

Operation æRoarÆ: NIOSH Marshals Science, Legwork to Prevent Job-Related Asthma

In workplaces as diverse as industrial plants and school buildings, using techniques that range from traditional "shoe leather epidemiology" to high-tech laboratory sciences, the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) is pursuing studies that will lead to key strides against work-related asthma.

The efforts are part of a strategic research program, "Research on Occupational Asthma Reduction" or ROAR, in which NIOSH is coordinating and synthesizing its field and laboratory investigations to better recognize, evaluate, control, and monitor work-related risk factors that can cause or exacerbate asthma.

"Although work-related asthma is the most frequently recognized occupational illness, there is much about it that science doesn’t know, and those gaps in knowledge make it difficult to develop, institute, and validate effective preventive measures," NIOSH Director John Howard, M.D., said. "By planning strategically and partnering with diverse groups, we are working to close those gaps and to reduce potential risks in industrial and non-industrial workplaces alike."

The current phase of NIOSH research under “ROAR” focuses on three areas where new data will help scientists better determine the prevalence and severity of occupational asthma, and better define exposure-response relationships in workplaces—critical steps for designing good preventive measures:

Understanding workplace exacerbation of asthma. In a substantial fraction of reported cases, individuals’ occupational asthma is not a new condition created by workplace factors. Rather, it involves a pre-existing condition exacerbated by conditions or circumstances on the job. Many key questions about such cases have not been rigorously explored by scientists: How prevalent is workplace-exacerbated asthma? What circumstances in the workplace setting are associated with it? How accurate is the system for self-reporting of cases? Under a contract with a health maintenance organization, NIOSH will identify and survey adults who have reported they have asthma, will follow up to validate those self-reports through objective testing, and will investigate whether workplace exacerbation contributes to the progression or worsening of the disease in individuals. These results will help guide efforts to better detect cases of occupational asthma, identify employee populations at potential risk, and measure the costs of the illness.

Investigating asthma in the non-industrial work environment. NIOSH is investigating problem buildings identified through the Institute’s Health Hazard Evaluation Program to identify risk factors for occupational asthma in non-industrial work settings, and to develop "indices" of exposure (that is, conditions such as the presence of moisture, or the occurrence of mold or other air contaminants at given levels) that can generally be used to determine if a given indoor work environment poses the risk of job-related asthma. The research also will help NIOSH develop new environmental sampling methods and new medical monitoring methods to better identify workplaces and employee populations at potential risk.

Advancing medical monitoring for workers exposed to diisocyanates. Under a new agreement, NIOSH is collaborating with companies and employees in the chemical industry to evaluate current medical monitoring for persons occupationally exposed to diisocyanates, the most commonly used class of chemicals reported to cause occupational asthma. The study will yield new findings on the effectiveness of current monitoring procedures and methods, which in turn will be used for designing and testing a model screening and medical surveillance program for detecting occupational asthma associated with diisocyanate exposures.

The ROAR program is part of NIOSH’s research under the National Occupational Research Agenda, which identifies occupational asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) as one of 21 priority areas where new research will do the most to prevent job-related illnesses and injuries. 

May is National Asthma and Allergy Awareness Month. 

OSHA Unveils Safety and Health Topics Page for Plastics Industry

More than 1.5 million workers in the U.S. plastics industry stand to benefit from a new web page, OSHA Assistance for the Plastics Industry. The new page is the product of OSHA's Alliance with the Society of the Plastics Industry, Inc.

"This page brings together industry-specific information to help employers and workers establish safer and more healthful workplaces," said OSHA Administrator John Henshaw. "This is a perfect example of how the Alliance Program can leverage resources to maximize worker safety and health protections."

The new web page features information about OSHA standards as well as safety and health concerns in the plastics industry. It also includes links to an interactive training program, various eTools, ergonomics Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) for plastics processors, and a section on hazards and solutions that outlines procedures to identify and reduce workplace hazards.

OSHA Provides Information on SARS for Employers, Employees

OSHA is providing information on Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) that may be useful for employers and employees. 

"As new issues about safety and health in the workplace evolve, it is important to put information in the hands of people who need it the most," said John L. Henshaw, Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health. "There is still much we do not know about SARS, but sharing what we do know helps everyone make informed decisions about assessing risks and taking appropriate precautions.

Information on OSHA's website includes a PowerPoint presentation that employers may find useful in discussing the risks of SARS in the workplace, information about precautions to be taken in working with patients with SARS, and links to other agencies' fact sheets, guidance and information on SARS, including the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH).

As more information about SARS becomes available, OSHA will add to its webpage.