An influential US Department of Labor safety body has cited Anheuser-Busch, alleging that the firm failed to protect Houston brewery workers from exposure to carbon dioxide and other workplace hazards.
The Department’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has proposed a $88,000 fine for the six alleged violations – one willful, the other five classified as serious – where the citation follows an October 2012 compliance inspection of the 136-acre Gellhorn Drive facility, which was built in 1966.
David Doucet, OSHA area director for Houston North, said yesterday:“Employers must recognize the hazards that exist in their workplaces and then develop the necessary safety and health policies and procedures to protect workers.”
Scott Vail, general manager at Anheuser-Busch's Houston brewery told BeverageDaily.com: "At Anheuser-Busch, safety is our top priority and we take comprehensive measures to provide a safe work environment for our employees.
"We have long-standing programs in place for ongoing general practice safety training for employees, as well as job-specific training for individuals. Our high standards have earned our facility a strong safety record. We are investigating these claims thoroughly, together with OSHA, and will fully address any questions or concerns."
Whither now for Anheuser-Busch?
AB InBev’s US entity, St. Louis-based Anheuser-Busch, has 15 business days from receipt of the citations to (A) comply (B) request an informal conference with Doucet (C) contest the citations and penalty before the independent Occupation Safety and Health Review Commission.
The willful violation centers on the allegation that AB InBev failed to consider carbon dioxide atmosphere in the brewing cellars to be, in the OSHA’s words, “immediately dangerous to life or health, while also failing to identify respiratory hazards”.
A willful violation is one where an employer has demonstrated either an intentional disregard for the requirements of the Occupational Safety and Health Act 1970, or a plan indifference to employee safety and health.
‘Serious violation’ explained
Serious violations – five in total – concern AB InBev’s alleged failure to (1) Ensure that conditions in confined spaces are acceptable throughout duration of entry, and (2) Ensure that entrants can communicate with the required ‘confined space attendant’ as necessary.
The world’s largest brewer also failed, the OSHA alleges, to: (3) Ensure that attendants performed no other duty than monitor and protect the entrant into the confined space (4) Evaluate a prospective rescuer’s ability to respond to a rescue summons in a timely fashion.
Finally, AB InBev allegedly failed to (5) Inform each team or rescue services of the hazards they may confront when called upon to perform a rescue at the site.
A serious violation is one that could cause death or serious physical harm to employees when the employer knew or should have known about the hazard.
In February Bacardi Bottling Corporation was hit with a $192,000 fine by OSHA for numerous alleged safety violations, one of which resulted in a young worker being crushed to death.