OSHA seeks $84,000 in penalties against water bottler

Temp worker disabled after being crushed in packaging machine

By Heidi Parsons

- Last updated on GMT

A temporary worker was permanently disabled when he tried to clear a jam in palletizer similar to this one at a Florida bottling plant.
A temporary worker was permanently disabled when he tried to clear a jam in palletizer similar to this one at a Florida bottling plant.
Ice River Springs, which makes plastic bottles and sells bottled water, was cited by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and may incur penalties totaling $84,000 after an accident involving a packaging machine left a temporary worker permanently disabled.

The 50-year-old temporary worker was trying to clear a jam in a palletizing machine when it started up and crushed him. He had been on the job at the Ice River Springs plant in High Springs, Florida, for 12 days.

An agency of the US Department of Labor, OSHA conducted an investigation and in July 2014 found the employer “allowed workers to enter the palletizer's safety cage area and bypass two photo-eye safety sensors that served as machine safeguards,”​ said OSHA in a statement.

“When the employee freed the pallet from its jammed position, he unknowingly activated the palletizer elevator's photo-eye sensor and became entrapped between the elevator and the palletizer conveyor.”

The penalty box

OSHA cited the water bottle manufacturer for three safety violations and has proposed penalties totaling $84,000.

Michael D'Aquino, a spokesman for OSHA’s District 4 office in Atlanta, Georgia, told FoodProductionDaily the penalties are payable to the agency, not the injured worker. He said any remediation for the worker himself must be sought from the Social Security system (in the form of permanent disability benefits) or through litigation.

TempForce of Gainesville, Florida — a franchised affiliate of Randstad, a nationwide staffing agency — provided Ice River Springs with temporary workers. In turn, Ice River Springs was responsible for daily supervision, training and direction for the temporary workers employed at the facility.

OSHA concluded an inspection with TempForce and did not issue citations to the staffing agency.

"OSHA has received far too many reports of temporary workers injured or killed on the job, with some of these incidents occurring in the employee's first few days at work,"​ said Brian Sturtecky, OSHA's area director in Jacksonville.

"It is critical that Ice River Springs and TempForce understand OSHA's newest initiatives to protect temporary workers, which must include shared responsibility by the host employer and the temporary staffing agency,” ​he added. “These initiatives include taking effective steps to ensure that each temporary worker is sufficiently trained and monitored to safeguard them from the hazards of their new work environment."

Willful and serious

OSHA issued a “willful violation” citation to Ice River Springs for failing to ensure workers were protected from moving machine parts during service or maintenance. A willful violation is one committed with intentional, knowing or voluntary disregard for the law's requirement, or with plain indifference to worker safety and health, according to OSHA.

“The 41 full-time and temporary employees who work onsite were exposed to serious injury or death due to this violation,”​ the agency said.

OSHA also cited Ice Water Springs for two “serious violations”: 1) failure to conduct an annual inspection of lockout / tagout procedures, and 2) not training workers to recognize hazardous machinery or implement proper maintenance controls. The agency explained a serious violation occurs when there is substantial probability that death or serious physical harm could result from a hazard about which the employer knew or should have known.

In April 2013, OSHA announced an initiative to improve workplace safety and health for temporary workers, who are at increased risk of work-related injury and illness. “The initiative came about,” ​D'Aquino said, “because OSHA personnel noticed that as the number of temp workers rose in the post-recession economy, so did the number of serious injuries and deaths among those workers.”

The initiative includes outreach, training and enforcement to ensure that temporary workers are protected on the job. OSHA and the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health have also issued a "Recommended Practices" publication offering guidance for companies employing temporary workers.

Ice River Springs has 15 business days from receipt of its citations and proposed penalties to respond. The company’s options are to comply, to request a conference with OSHA's area director, or to contest the findings before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.

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