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Tortilla maker hit with over $150,000 in proposed OSHA fines

Earlier this week, the U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration handed down a eye-opening number of citations and a rather substantial proposed fine to a food manufacturing company with corporate offices located right here in the Chicagoland area.

Ole Mexican Foods, Inc., a food manufacturing plant that produces tortillas, chips and tostadas, was hit with 20 violations and proposed penalties of $151,030. The penalties are the direct result of a complaint inspection conducted by OSHA at the company's Georgia-based facilities this past summer.

The 20 OSHA violations included 14 serious violations, four other-than-serious violations and two repeat violations. In general, serious violations are defined as occurring when there exists a substantial probability that serious physical injuries or even death could result from a workplace hazard about which the employer knew or should have known.

The serious violations, which total $77,000 in proposed fines, were issued for some of the following:

  • Failure to prevent trip and fall hazards by covering drainage troughs and guarded platforms
  • Failure to provide employees with unobstructed exit routes
  • Failure to provide an emergency eyewash station
  • Failure to ensure that workers using corrosive chemicals were outfitted with protective eyewear

The repeat violations -- which are generally defined by OSHA as those that an employer fails to fix within five years of the original citation -- totaled $77,000 in proposed fines and were issued for the following:

  • Failure to ensure that those workers tasked with servicing equipment and maintenance understood the energy control program
  • Failure to ensure that those workers tasked with servicing equipment and maintenance understood the established procedures for caught-in and amputation hazards on production area equipment

The other-than-serious violations -- which are generally defined by OSHA as those that have a direct relationship to employee health and safety but which would probably not result in serious injuries or death -- totaled $1,100 in proposed fines.

"This employer received citations for the same hazards earlier and did not correct them. Additionally, amputation and caught-in hazards remained, posing a risk of serious injury or even death for their workers," said the director of OSHA's Atlanta-based office. "These hazards must be eliminated immediately from the workplace."

Ole Foods has 15 business days to comply with the OSHA mandate or file a formal challenge.

Please visit our workers' compensation page to learn more about your rights and your options in the event of a serious workplace accident.

Source: U.S. Department of Labor, "Ole Mexican Foods cited for more than $150,000 by US Labor Department's OSHA for exposing workers to amputation and other hazards," Dec. 16, 2013

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