Buyers and staffing firms are both responsible for temporary agency workers’ safety, the chief of California’s Division of Occupational Safety and Health warned Jan. 25. The statement came as part of an announcement that a buyer and staffing firm would be fined over a nearly fatal industrial accident that left a worker with a crushed right hand, broken arm and nerve damage.
“When companies hire temporary employees, they do not sign away their responsibilities to protect workers from industrial accidents,” Cal/OSHA Chief Juliann Sunn said. “Both temporary employment agencies and host employers are required to ensure workers are trained and understand safety procedures.”
The industrial accident happened July 16, 2015, when a worker at a Vitco Meats facility near San Luis Obispo tried to remove ground beef stuck inside the hopper of a meat mixer that moves beef into a grinder.
Power to the hopper was live when the worker put his hand inside. And paddles that move the beef rotated twice — crushing the worker’s hand.
Had the paddles rotated a third time, the worker could have died, according to the agency.
A Cal/OSHA investigation found Vitco Meats did not require employees to disengage the power on industrial equipment prior to cleaning. The company also lacked specific procedures for powering down the grinder — which also didn’t have a required cover with interlock.
Vitco received nine citations with proposed penalties of $63,900, according to Cal/OSHA.
Staffing supplier Volt Workforce Solutions faces $10,600 in penalties stemming from the investigation. It found Volt did not ensure Vitco had an injury and illness prevention program or safety training for meat grinders.
Workers can be electrocuted or suffer permanent disfigurement if a machine inadvertently activates while being maintained, according to Cal/OSHA. And failing to develop lockout/tagout procedures — which involves use of devices to prevent machinery from activating until the devices are removed — is one of the major causes of injury and death.
There has been a continued emphasis on temporary worker safety. Last year, to help establish standards, the American Staffing Association and federal OSHA released a video on temporary worker safety.