N.Y. Cheese Plant Found to Have Holes in Safety Net; Proposed Fines Nearly $185,000

September 23, 2004

An Ogdensburg, N.Y., cheese manufacturer’s reported failure to protect workers against the unexpected startup of machinery, hazardous chemicals, falls and other safety and health hazards has resulted in $184,900 in proposed fines from the U.S. Labor Department’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration.

St Lawrence Food Corp., doing business as Primo Foods, was cited for a total of 38 alleged willful, repeat, serious and other violations of the Occupational Safety and Health Act at its 30 Main St. plant. OSHA conducted the inspection from March 11 to Sept. 3, as part of a safety and health emphasis program covering food processing plants in the local area.

The inspection reportedly found that the company failed to provide “lockout/tagout” protection for employees who service and clean equipment to ensure that machinery does not accidentally startup during repair or maintenance. In addition, employees were not trained on the hazards of the corrosive chemicals with which they work. These conditions resulted in the issuance of two willful citations, with $112,500 in proposed fines.

Thirty-two serious citations, carrying $68,400 in fines, were issued for such hazards as failing to label confined spaces and institute a program for safe entry; missing stair railings; not providing fall protection for employees working at heights of up to 12 feet; obstructed exit routes; unguarded moving machine parts; and failure to properly maintain electrical equipment.

A repeat citation, with a $3,200 fine, was issued for the company’s failure to institute a hearing conservation program. OSHA had cited Lewis County Dairy, which is owned by the same company, in May 2003 for a similar hazard at its Lowville, N.Y., dairy. An additional $800 in fines were proposed for three other citations for failing to maintain a log of occupational illnesses and injuries, an uncovered floor drain and not marking the load capacity on a fork lift.

The company has 15 business days from receipt of its citations and fines to request and participate in an informal conference with OSHA or to contest them before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.

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