Colo. Farms Cited for Workplace Violations

November 11, 2004

The U.S. Labor Department’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has cited two southern Colorado hog farms for reportedly failing to protect workers from hazards.

Mountain Prairie Farms LLC, a subsidiary of Hormel, faces $116,000 in proposed penalties and M2P2, doing business as Heritage Farms LLC, received $175,500 proposed penalties following a complaint investigation that began April 22 into conditions at several hog farms in Wiley, Colo.

OSHA’s Englewood area office issued citations to Heritage Farms for one alleged willful and 24 alleged serious violations of OSHA’s general duty clause and standards relating to farms and feed-mills. The willful citation, with a proposed penalty of $70,000, addressed locked emergency exits. The serious citations, with a total of $104,500 in penalties, included a lack of machine guarding, an inadequate emergency response plan, inadequate electrical installation and work practices, unsanitary workplace conditions and inadequate grain dust housekeeping. One other-than-serious citation was issued for improper recordkeeping with a proposed penalty of $1,000.

Mountain Prairie Farms received one willful and seven serious citations resulting from the same investigation. The alleged willful violation with a $70,000 penalty involved exposing employees to unsafe levels of hydrogen sulfide gas. The serious citations addressed the lack of a hazard communication program, inadequate machine guarding, an inadequate emergency action plan, unsanitary workplace conditions, and inadequate electrical installation and work practices. The proposed penalty for the serious violations was $40,000. Two other-than-serious citations were issued for recordkeeping and reporting requirements with proposed penalties of $6,000.

Willful violations are those committed with an intentional disregard of, or plain indifference to, the requirements of the Occupational Safety and Health Act. A serious citation is issued when there is substantial probability that death or serious physical harm could result from a hazard about which the employer knew or should have known.

The two employers have 15 working days from receipt of the citations to request an informal conference with the OSHA area director, or to contest the citations and proposed penalties before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.

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