AUSTIN, Minn. (FOX 47) -- A hog slaughtering plant in Austin is in trouble with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, or OSHA.
Quality Pork Processors, Inc. is facing three alleged violations. OSHA contends they could result in serious injury or even death for some employees, but Quality Pork is contesting the findings.
This isn't the slaughtering plant's first run-in with OSHA inspectors. The last complaint was in 2008 but did not result in a citation. There was a much more serious situation in 2007, when 12 workers became ill, due to a mysterious neurological illness. Agencies other than OSHA were involved in that. Now, OSHA inspectors are concerned that correct procedures are not being followed to protect cleaning crews from potential serious injury. Again, the company disputes that.
According to OSHA documents, Quality Pork Processors Inc. was notified in late July that it is facing three "serious" safety violations stemming from a planned routine inspection on April 6 of this year. An OSHA spokesperson said all of the violations are related to the hazardous control of energy involving a process known as "lockout/tagout." More specifically, before workers on the last shift of the day go home, workers need to "lockout" and then tag the machines so that the cleaning crews know they are safe to clean -- the machines have been locked in place and have no more energy before they begin to clean them. The safety standards are in place to ensure workers aren't caught in machinery, or cut, if the machine would suddenly turn on during the cleaning process.
"Our goal in any workplace inspection is to try to reduce any workplace hazard we might see. Our goal is if we find a hazard to prevent ways to reduce that hazard to other people," said James Honerman, OSHA spokesperson.
Quality Pork Processors, Inc. is "not" Hormel. Trucks bring animals to QPP where they are slaughtered before most of the meat is processed at nearby Hormel Foods. OSHA Spokesperson, James Honerman, said safety is key at processing facilities.
In 2007, 12 people showed symptoms of a neurological disorder causing numbness, severe weakness and sensations in the fingers and toes. These symptoms appeared after being splattered with animal brain matter or inhaling neurological debris. In that process, hog brains were being separated using compressed air machinery.
The current case involves procedures for safely cleaning some of the plant machinery.
We have reached out to Quality Pork Processors, Inc. for comment, but our calls have not yet been returned. At this time, OSHA tells us the company is contesting the case -- it's unknown how long it will be on-going. Quality Pork Processors, Inc. employs 1300 people.
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