OSHA: Holes in JBS safety practices at fault in June death
December 13, 2014
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration has found Greeley-based JBS responsible for the death of an employee who was killed while working on a conveyor belt in the Greeley meatpacking plant in June.
The agency cited the global meatpacking company twice for workplace violations that put the employee in danger, one being a repeat safety offense, and has fined the company $45,500.
Ralph Horner, 54 and a maintenance technician, was working June 10 in close proximity to an unguarded and vulnerable area on the conveyor belt when his hair was caught, dragging him into the conveyor system and leading to his death, OSHA said in findings released Thursday.
"When workers are exposed to unprotected moving equipment, they can become entangled quickly. Unfortunately, the consequences can be fatal," said Herb Gibson, OSHA's Denver-area director in a news release. "If JBS USA had followed simple, well-known safety practices, this tragic incident could have been prevented."
According to OSHA's findings, "On and before June 10th, the employer did not ensure that Alvey Maintenance Technicians were protected from unguarded, in-going nip-points associated with two inbound inclined conveyor belts."
The lack of appropriate guards on plant equipment provoked a previous citation from OSHA at the same JBS plant on June 15, 2010. The repeat offense accounts for $38,500 of the total penalty to be paid by JBS.
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The remaining $7,000 to be paid stems from the second citation issued by OSHA, described as a "serious" violation. For this citation, OSHA found JBS had not properly controlled energy sources on machinery during service and maintenance. The lack of appropriate controls placed Horner in an unnecessary "danger zone" involving rotating parts as he carried out his routine maintenance activities under the conveyor belt, OSHA reported.
"The most important thing in any business and in a meatpacking business is ensuring all equipment is properly guarded to prevent people from getting caught," Gibson said in a phone interview.
JBS issued the following statement by email on the findings of OSHA's investigation: "The tragic loss of a team member is never acceptable. We maintain high workplace safety standards for the company and our employees in an effort to prevent injuries and ensure a safe and healthful environment for all of our team members. We will review the citations and work with the federal government to resolve any concerns."
JBS did not comment on what has been done since the death to improve safety regulations, or what the company has done to support the Horner family.
JBS employs 3,100 people for its operations in Greeley, according to OSHA.
The company will have 15 days to comply with penalties. Alternatively, JBS will have the option to request a conference with OSHA's area director or contest the findings through the Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission. ❖