A US Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) investigation also discovered slip, trip and fall hazards on unclean freezer floors.
OSHA found the company expected employees to work in a 40-degree-below-zero Fahrenheit freezer at the firm’s Dairen plant without properly insulated personal protective equipment.
The agency said methods to correct this hazard include a buddy system so two employees work together whenever entering the tunnel freezers; ensuring all employees entering them don freezer gear covering all extremities and have a set time limit allowed to work inside tunnel freezers.
Inspection after complaint
An inspection started in May and ended last month after a complaint alleged unsafe working conditions.
The inspection of the frozen-food processing plant resulted in one repeat and 12 serious safety violations. The citations carry proposed penalties of $109,400.
Birds Eye Foods employs about 600 workers at the Darien facility and is a division of Pinnacle Foods.
FoodQualityNews has contacted Pinnacle Foods for comment and is awaiting response.
Birds Eye Foods was issued a repeat violation for failure to install fixed stairs to access elevations with tools and equipment, which exposed workers to fall hazards.
Inspectors found the same violation at the Darien facility in June 2013.
The investigation also found serious violations with workers exposed to live electrical parts and hazards related to hexavalent chromium.
An industrial process, such as welding on stainless steel or other alloy steels containing chromium metal, usually produces hexavalent chromium.
Exposure to hexavalent chromium could cause cancer and adversely affect the respiratory system, kidneys, liver, skin and eyes, said OSHA.
"OSHA's investigation uncovered that entry-level workers bought thermal protective equipment because Birds Eye Foods had not provided it. It was ridiculous that workers needed to spend money on protections their employer failed to provide," said Kim Stille, OSHA's area director in Madison.
Birds Eye Foods has until 18 December to comply, request an informal conference with OSHA's area director, or contest the findings before an independent panel.