The US Occupational Safety and Health Administration cited Del Monte Foods Inc. for two repeated and six serious safety violations of machine safety and fall protection standards after a seasonal worker suffered preventable injury at a canning facility, the US Department of Labor announced March 6. The company faces proposed penalties of $222,779.
The seasonal worker suffered a partial amputation of their finger while on the job at the Plover, Wisconsin, facility. The injury occurred while the 20-year-old worker was attempting to unjam a palletizer machine designed to send pallets to the palletizing line so canned goods can be arranged and wrapped for shipping.
The cannery reported the injury to OSHA within the required 24-hour timeframe. OSHA’s resulting investigation found workers regularly redirected pallets stuck in the machine’s pallet dispenser using their hands. Employees clearing jams in the dispenser had not been trained to recognize or safely manage hazardous energy sources while doing so.
OSHA in 2019 cited the company for similar violations resulting in partial amputations of employees’ fingers at another facility in Markesan, Wisconsin, according to the agency.
“Del Monte Foods Inc. is aware of the importance of training their seasonal workers on machine safety procedures and making sure required machine safeguards are in place,” said OSHA Area Director Robert Bonack. “If the company had followed OSHA safety standards, they could have prevented this young worker from needlessly suffering a lifelong disabling injury.”
Investigators also found workers at the Plover cannery were exposed to fall hazards on stairs and ladders due to a lack of anti-slip coatings and handrails.
These penalties come on the heels of the agency’s new enforcement guidance, which aims to stop employers from repeatedly exposing workers to life-threatening hazards or failing to comply with certain workplace safety and health requirements via “more frequent and aggressive inspections as well as stiffer penalties for violations,” according to an article by law firm Fisher Phillips.
Walnut Creek, California-based Del Monte Foods Inc. is one of the nation’s largest producers and distributors of branded retail food products. The Plover cannery produces 14 million cases of canned vegetables annually.
Del Monte Foods has 15 business days from receipt of the citation and penalties to comply, request an informal conference with Bonack or contest the findings before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.