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September 20, 2023
OSHA cites Texas poultry plant for ergonomics hazards

On September 18, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) announced it cited Holmes Foods Inc., a Nixon, Texas, poultry processor, for ergonomics hazards.

OSHA cited Holmes Foods for five serious safety and health violations that also included failure to provide required eye protection; not developing lockout/tagout procedures to prevent sudden machine start-ups; and failure to guard chains, rotating shafts, and sprockets. The agency proposed penalties totaling $60,269.

OSHA inspectors performed a scheduled inspection under a Regional Emphasis Program (REP) for Poultry Processing Facilities.

Because there is no federal ergonomics standard, OSHA cited Holmes Foods for ergonomic hazards using the agency’s General Duty Clause authority under the Occupational Safety and Health Act. The agency estimates about 50% of injuries and illnesses in the poultry processing industry involve musculoskeletal disorders.

“Holmes Foods exposed employees whose jobs require repetitive motions and lifting tasks to recognized workplace hazards that can cause long-term injuries,” Monica Munoz, OSHA’s Austin, Texas, area office director, said in an agency statement. “The company must follow federal requirements to protect workers, including those whose work is essential to the region’s food supply. We will hold employers accountable when they fail to meet their legal obligations.”

Holmes Foods Inc. is a family-owned company headquartered in Nixon that raises, processes, packages, and distributes ready-to-cook poultry for food service providers and retail deli markets. Holmes Foods employs about 500 workers at the Nixon facility, according to the agency. 

OSHA’s Region 6 area offices administer the poultry processing REP in Arkansas, Louisiana, Oklahoma, and Texas. New Mexico has its own OSHA-approved state workplace safety and health program.

Georgia employer cited in grain engulfment death

A 59-year-old worker at a Colquitt, Georgia, grain silo became engulfed and suffocated—a fatality that Cedar Head LLC could have prevented by following federal grain-handling safety regulations, OSHA stated September 15.

Cedar Head faces $41,303 in proposed penalties for its violations.

OSHA concluded after its investigation that the employee entered a half-full bin to unclog clumps of grain as the bin’s auger turned below. As the employee stood atop the grain, the pile shifted and quickly engulfed the worker. Another worker on-site rushed over and saw a rope that was tied to the worker disappearing into the grain but couldn’t rescue the person.  

OSHA cited the employer for nine serious violations for exposing employees to engulfment hazards and failing to do the following: 

  • Train workers on how to enter a grain bin safely.
  • Issue a permit and adequately evaluate hazards before employees enter a bin.
  • Require augers and other equipment components to be de-energized and effectively locked out.
  • Keep employees from performing tasks that require them to walk on moving grain inside a bin.
  • Ensure that body harnesses and lifelines are adequate to avoid engulfment hazards. 
  • Employ effective communication methods, including communication with an observer, to support workers inside a bin.
  • Provide rescue equipment for employees entering a bin.

“Our investigation found Cedar Head failed to follow required federal safety standards that might have saved this worker’s life,” Heather Sanders, OSHA’s Savannah, Georgia, acting area office director, said in an agency statement. 

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