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Nestlé US subsidiary cited in death of temp worker

26 June 2012 News
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The United States Occupational Safety and Health Administration has cited Tribe Mediterranean Foods, a subsidiary of Nestle SA, for 18 alleged violations of workplace safety standards following the death of a contract worker at its Taunton, Mass., production plant. The worker, who was pulled into the machine he was cleaning and sterilizing and crushed to death, had received no training in hazardous energy control involving shutting off the machine and its power supply before performing any work. Other contract workers performing the cleaning had likewise received no training.

"The employer knew it needed to train these workers so they could protect themselves against just this type of hazard but failed to do so. The result was a needless and avoidable loss of life," said Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health Dr. David Michaels. "In this case, Tribe Mediterranean Foods' knowledge and continuous disregard for an obvious and deadly hazard was so pronounced that we are issuing seven willful citations for lack of training, one for each untrained worker exposed to the hazard."

The worker, Collazo Torres, was formally employed by a temp agency, Monroe Staffing.

As reported in Occupational Health and Safety online on June 20, "OSHA's investigation found that the company had not trained the deceased worker and six other workers who cleaned plant machinery on hazardous energy control or "lockout/tagout" procedures. These are the procedures employers must put into effect and train workers to follow to shut down machines and lock out their power sources before cleaning or performing maintenance on them. OSHA requires that employers train workers so that they understand the purpose of the energy control procedures and have the knowledge and skills required to safely utilize them.

OSHA has issued the company citations for two additional willful violations, one for failing to adequately train maintenance workers to recognize hazardous energy sources, and one for failing to develop and utilize lockout/tagout procedures.

"Citations for three repeat violations have been issued for failing to conduct periodic inspections of the energy control procedures, inadequate guarding of rotating blades on blending tanks, and an exposed chain and sprocket on a conveyor. OSHA cited Tribe Mediterranean Foods, doing business as FoodTech International Inc., in October 2009 for similar hazards at its New Haven, Conn., plant.

"Finally, Tribe Mediterranean Foods has been issued citations covering six serious violations for electrical, slipping, fall, pallet jack, and additional machine guarding hazards.

"Due to the willful and repeat violations and the nature of the hazards, OSHA has placed Tribe Mediterranean Foods in its Severe Violator Enforcement Program, which mandates targeted follow-up inspections to ensure compliance with the law."

The company is a subsidiary of the Israeli-based Osem Group, majority-owned by Nestlé, with operations in Israel, Europe and the US.