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Plant Accident Reveals Dangers of Confined Work Spaces

Be thankful the holidays featuring turkey are nearly a year away, otherwise a recent accident at the Jennie-O turkey plant might inspire you to make it a tofurkey Thanksgiving. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) recently cited the Jennie-O Turkey Store with eleven safety violations. The citations came after an inspection of the plant which was triggered by a gruesome accident in July 2011. In the incident, an employee’s arm was severed below the shoulder after becoming entangled in an energized turkey shackle. The worker was working alone in a confined space, and after the accidental amputation, had to travel down a flight of stairs and across a production floor by himself to obtain help from a co-worker. Predominant among the citations were violations of safety standards for working in confined spaces. Such working conditions are present across a variety of industries and professions, and carry with it a number of safety concerns.

OSHA defines confined spaces as having “configurations that hinder the activities of employees who must enter, work in, and exit them.” Such a space would have “limited or restricted means for entry or exit, and is not designed for continuous employee occupancy.” In many industries, confined spaces offer a number of challenges to worker safety. In areas where gases or chemicals are present, small, enclosed spaces are more likely to contain a dangerous build-up of fumes which can be noxious, suffocating or even flammable. Confined spaces can cause workers to be in dangerous proximity to tools or machinery. Such spaces are also more prone to result in entrapment and/or workers being unable to vacate during an emergency. For this reason, OSHA requires a standard of safety specifically for working in confined spaces. Such safety regulations can include requiring: equipment which monitors and/or prevents gas or fume build-up; machinery guards, such as automatic shut-offs; fall protection; first-aid and evacuation procedures; and minimum or maximum human occupancy protocols.

In the accident at Jennie-O, four citations for “willful violations” were given after OSHA uncovered the plant’s failure to follow confined space regulations. One of these violations was for a failure to lock out power to the turkey shackle line which was ultimately responsible for amputating the worker’s arm. Seven other citations were levied for “serious violations”. These included violations of regulations for fall protection, emergency equipment and procedures, safe-entry of confined spaces, and confined space training and supervision of employees.

The Jennie-O accident highlights not just the danger for workers in confined spaces, but the importance of following safety regulations. If you are concerned such regulations at your work-site are not being followed or enforced, contact OSHA immediately. If you have been injured by an accident at work, contact an Illinois workers compensation attorney who can assist you.

About the Author: Brooke Haley is a Marketing Associate at Millon & Peskin, Chicago workers compensation attorney that practice in the areas of Workers’ Compensation and Personal Injury. Millon & Peskin is a General Civil Litigation Practice with the goal of representing the interests of injured workers, throughout all applicable Courts in the State of Illinois. For more information about Illinois workers compensation lawyer,please visit

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