OSHA levies more fines against Case Farms

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Farm and Dairy file photo.

CANTON, Ohio — Federal fines continue to grow at one of Ohio’s top poultry processors.

Case Farms, which has operations in Ohio, Maryland and North Carolina, was cited with an additional $462,000 in penalties Dec. 1, related to deficiencies with the ammonia refrigeration systems at two of the company’s Ohio facilities.

The fines were issued by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration, which has fined the company nearly $2 million this year, following various worker-safety issues, that according to the department of labor, were left unresolved.

During the most recent case, OSHA cited Case Farms for 11 repeated, four serious and two other-than-serious violations at the farm’s Winesburg, Ohio, plant. And the company’s Canton,Ohio, facility was also fined, after OSHA cited it for five repeated and three serious violations.

“Case Farms needs to protect its workers, period,” said David Michaels, assistant secretary of labor for occupational safety and health, in a released statement. “The company has a 25-year track record of failing to comply with federal workplace safety standards.

Different story

Case Farms, in a released statement, that it doesn’t agree with how its company is being portrayed.

“We do not agree with the negative characterizations that have been made about our company and our employees,” according to Case Farms. “We value our employees and are committed to providing a safe and healthy work environment. The citations are being reviewed and we will work with OSHA, as we have in the past, to address the concerns outlined in the citations.”

OSHA cited Case Farms in 2011 for many of the same violations. The agency’s follow-up inspection found 16 repeated and five serious violations of process safety management procedures for ammonia refrigeration systems used in Canton and Winesburg.

Inspectors found the company lacked “clear, written operating procedures, failed to test and inspect systems and did not provide adequate training for workers.”

Ammonia risk

According to OSHA, Case Farms has more than 10,000 pounds of ammonia in its refrigeration system at each plant. Exposure to ammonia can cause serious respiratory illness, and the accidental release of ammonia from pressurized pipes and vessels may have catastrophic consequences.

The company was fined $861,000 in August, for violations that put workers at risk of amputation, electrocution and hazardous falls. The company is contesting those findings.

Michaels said OSHSA intends to “remain vigilant” until the company “keeps its workers safe, by making needed improvements to equipment, procedures and training.”

About Case

Headquartered in Troutman, North Carolina, Case Farms Processing processes 2.8 million chickens per week at seven facilities in North Carolina and Ohio.
It has more than 3,200 employees and produces more than 900 million pounds of fresh, partially cooked and frozen-for-export poultry products yearly.

Related coverage:

Case Farms faces $861,000 in worker safety fines (Aug. 14, 2015).

Case Farms appeals OSHA violations (Sept. 1, 2015).

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Chris Kick served Farm and Dairy's readership as a reporter for nearly a decade before accepting a job at Iowa State University Extension. An American FFA Degree recipient, he holds a bachelor’s in creative writing from Ashland University.

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