MB Consultants, doing business as Murray's Chickens, was initially hit with a proposed fine of $67,600 and eight violations at its South Fallsburg chicken processing plant.
Dean Koplik, chief operating officer at Murray's Chicken, said while the administrative law judge’s decision did uphold some citations, others were vacated and the proposed penalty was reduced by 60%.
“We are certainly gratified that the judge agreed with us on many of the arguments that we made during the hearing as reflected by the drastic penalty reduction,” he told FoodQualityNews.com.
“We are fully committed to ensuring worker health and safety and we will act in full accordance with the judge’s ruling to ensure complete compliance with OSHA rules and regulations and to continue to provide workers with a safe work environment.”
The judge from the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission made his decision based on the findings from OSHA in May 2012.
OSHA plant citations
OSHA cited the plant for safety and health hazards, including failure to provide employees with information and training about the hazards of products that contain peracetic acid and bleach.
The company failed to train production workers whose operations included servicing and maintenance of machines that could unexpectedly start up – a violation of lockout/tagout standard, said OSHA.
Robert Kulick, OSHA's regional administrator in New York, said it was a ‘critical decision’ that the employer and industry should pay close attention to.
"Not informing production employees that the chemical hazards they worked with exposed them to potential illness, or that the absence of machine maintenance procedures left them vulnerable to lacerations, amputations or death, is unacceptable and will be enforced to the highest extent of the law."
MB Consultants contested its citations, and a hearing was held in Albany on May 21-22, 2013.
A ruling was issued last month, upholding some of the citations and their penalties.
The judge found the employer had failed to train production workers on the hazards of chlorine bleach and Perasafe, an antimicrobial agent containing peracetic acid, hydrogen peroxide and acetic acid, used to disinfect chicken carcasses.
It was noted that employees told the OSHA compliance officer that they had experienced respiratory ailment symptoms and rashes consistent with the exposure symptoms described in the manufacturer's safety data sheets for Perasafe and chlorine bleach.
The judge found that the company's machine maintenance procedures were overly general, lacking sufficient detail to provide employees with the steps to protect themselves from amputation and laceration hazards while servicing equipment.
Production workers were also not given basic training on how to avoid injuries when service and maintenance work was needed. Two employees were injured when attempting to clear jams on equipment without knowledge of proper procedures.
From the date the administrative law judge's decision is docketed with the review commission, MB Consultants has 20 days to appeal.