Food processor cited after worker killed in ice machine

By Rory Harrington

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Occupational safety and health Osha

US fish processing company Northern Wind Inc has been cited for flouting nearly two dozen safety regulations after one of its workers was killed in an ice machine at its Massachusetts plant.

The employee died in May 2009 after becoming caught in the moving parts of the industrial-scale equipment that activated while he was carrying out maintenance work inside it.

Charges and fines

The U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has cited the New Bedford-based firm for 23 alleged violations of workplace safety standards. Northern Winds also faces fines totalling almost $67,000.

An investigation by the safety watchdog following the tragedy found Northern Wind lacked specific steps and procedures to power down and lock out the ice machine's power source before employees entered it. The OSHA also discovered the company had failed to provide training to workers to recognise and address the dangers of the machine operating without warning.

Northern Wind further lacked a training programme for working in confined spaces like an ice machine and had failed to provide ladders to ensure safe entry as well as exit in times of an emergency, said an OSHA statement.

"This is exactly the type of grave accident that OSHA's hazardous energy control, or 'lockout/tagout' standard, is designed to prevent,"​ said Brenda Gordon, OSHA's area director for southeastern Massachusetts. "For the safety of their workers, employers must always ensure that machinery is powered down and its power sources locked out before workers perform maintenance. Employers must also ensure that workers are properly trained for work in confined spaces."

Right of appeal

In total, the alleged breaches triggered the issuing of 19 serious citations, with $62,800 in proposed fines. The body said it issues such serious citations when “death or serious physical harm is likely to result from hazards about which the employer knew or should have known”.​ The company also has been fined $4,000 for four lesser hazards, including incomplete recording of injuries and illnesses. The combined penalties total $66,800.

The company has been given 15 business days from receipt of its citations and proposed penalties to comply, meet with OSHA or challenge them before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.

Related topics Food Safety & Quality

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