Neb. Slaughterhouse Subject to Beef Ban Cited for Alleged Safety Violations

April 12, 2007

Four months after beef from a Hastings slaughterhouse was rejected in South Korea over fears of mad cow disease, the slaughterhouse owner faces $180,900 in fines related to 37 alleged safety and health violations.

The citations against Premium Protein Products by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration include failure to inspect and correct deficiencies in anhydrous ammonia systems at the facility.

“This employer is well aware of the standards that protect employees from the hazards we found during our inspection, yet did not comply with them,” said Charles Adkins, OSHA’s regional administrator in Kansas City, Mo.

Steve Sands, CEO of Premium Protein, said the company learned of the alleged violations recently and will meet with OSHA officials soon.

“We’ll contest a number of them,” Sands said. “It’s very early in the process, and we expect to get a significant reduction in the dollar amount.”

OSHA said the company failed to provide refresher training for hazardous material technicians, did not provide personal protective equipment and did not develop an emergency action plan.

The company also was cited for failing to use seat belts on powered industrial trucks, not training truck drivers and failing to replace damaged and exposed welding leads. It also is accused of not properly recording injuries and illnesses.

The company has 15 working days to contest the citations.

“We do recognize that we do work in a dangerous industry, and we welcome the suggestions from OSHA,” Sands said. “Every one of the charges will be addressed.”

South Korea said late last year it would suspend beef imports from the Premium Protein slaughterhouse after inspectors found bone fragments in a shipment, a violation of an agreement related to mad cow disease.

U.S. beef has not been sold in South Korea for more than three years after mad cow disease was discovered in the United States in December 2003.

Efforts to resume limited imports hit a snag over the discovery of banned bone chips, which South Korea fears could harbor the brain-wasting disease, in shipments from several companies.

Sands said Premium Products, which he said regularly ships to Japan with no trouble, hasn’t tried to ship to South Korea since December.

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