JBS USA faces $83K in proposed OSHA fines

GREELEY – JBS USA in Greeley faces $83,400 in fines from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) following 20 safety and health violations.

OSHA said Tuesday that it began an inspection at the meatpacking plant in December 2012 under a program that focuses enforcement on workplaces where high injury and illness rates occur.

The “serious” violations tied to the safety portion of the inspection related to workers being exposed to potential fall hazards from elevated work areas and possible amputations due to the “lack of proper machine guarding,” OSHA said. A serious violation occurs when there is substantial probability that death or serious physical harm could result from exposure to a hazard about which the employer knew or should have known. The violations also pertain to allegedly failing to use safe work practices for “electrical elements.”

A JBS USA spokesman said OSHA notified the company Friday of the alleged violations.

“We will be meeting with OSHA this week to go over them in a detailed manner one-by-one to determine remedies and how to go forward,” the spokesman said. “We’ll go through that process and ultimately come to a final outcome with our partners at OSHA to ensure the safety of our employees.”

Other serious violations stemmed from workers’ high exposure to occupational noise, resulting in possible hearing loss, and a lack of training on safely using chemicals, OSHA said.

A “repeat” violation was issued to the company for failing to properly guard machinery exposing workers to “nip points and rotating parts,” OSHA said. A repeat citation is given when an employer previously has been cited for the same regulation at any other facility in federal enforcement states within the last five years. Similar violations were issued at the plant in 2009.

The “other-than-serious” violations include an exposed electrical box, an unsafe ladder, defective emergency exit signs, improper use of electrical cords, lack of electrical personal protective equipment and worker exposure to high concentrations of carbon dioxide. An other-than-serious violation is one that has a direct relationship to job safety and health, but probably would not cause death or serious physical harm.

“Abating OSHA violations is a sign that an employer wants to keep its workers safe, but in this case, the employer allowed these hazards to reoccur and continued to expose workers to possible amputation hazards, among others,” Herb Gibson, OSHA’s area director in Denver, said in a statement. “Employers must take the steps necessary to eliminate hazards from the workplace.”

JBS USA has 15 business days from when it received the citations and proposed penalties to comply, request an informal conference with OSHA’s Denver area director or contest the findings before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.

JBS USA, a subsidiary of Brazilian meatpacker JBS S.A., employs more than 4,200 people in Greeley. The company’s Greeley plant has the capacity to process 5,400 cattle daily.

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