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Employee complaints led to food firm OSHA investigation

By Joe Whitworth , 17-Jan-2013

Progressive Gourmet has been hit with more than $73,400 worth in proposed fines after an investigation following employee complaints found energy control, ammonia and other hazard violations.

The US Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) cited the firm for alleged repeat and serious safety violations at a Wilmington, Massachusetts production facility.

The wholesale food manufacturer and distributor for food service and catering industries faces a total of $73,400 in fines following inspections which began in September 2012 in response to employee complaints.

Violations were proposed for a failure to ensure safe operation of its refrigeration system, a lack of procedures to prevent unintended machinery startup when performing maintenance and hazards from wet work floors.  

Repeat violations

OSHA found that the facility lacked adequate procedures to prevent the unintended startup of machinery, such as cookers, ovens and conveyors, while employees performed service and maintenance on the equipment.

The company also failed to provide all affected employees with information and training on how to power down and lock out the machines' power sources before performing maintenance.

As a result of these latest conditions, the company was cited for two repeat violations with $55,000 in proposed fines after similar violations in 2008.

Serious citations

OSHA also issued Progressive Gourmet three serious citations with $18,400 in fines for lack of routine inspections and maintenance to ensure safe operation of the anhydrous ammonia refrigeration system, insufficient space between stored materials and overhead piping containing ammonia to allow for safe access to stored materials, and slipping and tripping hazards from wet work floors.

"Left uncorrected, these conditions expose employees to a release of ammonia, slips and falls and to being caught in unexpectedly activated machinery," said Jeffrey A. Erskine, OSHA's area director for Middlesex and Essex counties in Massachusetts.

"Prompt, effective and ongoing corrective action is necessary to eliminate these hazards and prevent their recurrence."

The company has 15 business days from receipt of its citations and proposed penalties to comply, meet with OSHA's area director or contest the findings.

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