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Fruit processor fined $135k for worker safety failings

By Joe Whitworth+

11-Jul-2014

Fresh From Texas cited by OSHA over worker safety
Fresh From Texas cited by OSHA over worker safety

Fresh From Texas has been cited for exposing workers to damaging noise levels, chemical and possible amputation hazards.

The fresh fruit and vegetable processer for H-E-B Grocery stores and fast-food markets and staffing agency iWorks Personnel were hit by 18 violations by the US Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).

The proposed fine for the complaint inspection that began in December 2013 is $135,200.

Serious violation penalties

Fresh From Texas was cited for 12 serious safety and health violations, with a penalty of $76,100.

The firm employs about 515 workers at its San Antonio facility.

The fine is for failing to prevent workers from exposure to hazardous chemicals; to identify and evaluate respiratory hazards in the workplace; and to ensure a hearing conservation program for workers exposed to noise levels that would cause permanent hearing damage.

Regarding slicing and dicing machines, violations were cited for failing to establish a written lockout/tagout program for energy sources to ensure machines were turned off when workers were inside them; provide machine operators with training; guard rotating gears; and provide safety instructions on the machines.

"Workers, whether employed directly by the company or as a temporary worker, require proper training on workplace hazards. In this case, both Fresh From Texas and iWorks failed to do so and put workers in danger," said Kelly Knighton, OSHA's area director in San Antonio.

Repeat and other issues

Two repeat violations were cited, with a penalty of $49,500, for failing to ensure sufficient working space around electrical equipment and unobstructed access to fire extinguishers. Similar violations were cited in 2012.

A repeat violation is when an employer previously has been cited for the same or a similar violation at any other facility in federal enforcement states within the last five years.

Three other violations, with a penalty of $3,300, were cited for failing to record injuries of temporary workers, review the log for accuracy and ensure safety instructions were clearly posted on dangerous machines.

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