Business News

OSHA fines Acadian Fine Foods $122K

by Leslie Turk

Federal agency cites Church Point food processor for 16 serious and repeat violations, including willfully overexposing workers to CO2.

The U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration has cited Acadian Fine Foods for 16 safety and health violations, including 14 serious, one willful and one repeat violation, following a referral inspection that began in December 2013 at the Church Point processing plant. The company, which produces Savoie's Cajun food products, faces $121,660 in proposed fines for failing to protect workers from overexposure to carbon dioxide, dangerous machines and other safety hazards.

"Acadian Fine Foods exposed employees to levels of carbon dioxide that were at least four times above the permissible exposure limit. This glaring neglect of worker health and safety will not be tolerated," Dorinda Folse, OSHA's area director in Baton Rouge, said in a press release. "OSHA's safety and health standards must be followed to prevent worker injuries and fatalities. It is the employer's responsibility to find and fix these hazards."

OSHA's Baton Rouge Area Office originally conducted a complaint inspection in November 2013, which resulted in Acadian Fine Foods being cited with four serious violations for electrical hazards and unsafe forklift operation. That penalty, which the employer settled in May, was $15,400. However, a health referral was made based on employees being exposed to unsafe levels of carbon dioxide, which resulted in the December 2013 inspection.

The 14 serious violations, a fine of $72,380, include failing to do the following: guard moving machine parts; conduct annual inspections of lockout/tagout procedures, which protect workers who maintain and service machines from the machine's moving parts; properly identify respiratory hazards at the plant; include safety data sheets for carbon dioxide, sanitizer and boiler water treatment; and provide personal protective equipment. A serious violation occurs when there is substantial probability that death or serious physical harm could result from a hazard about which the employer knew or should have known.

A penalty of $38,500 was levied for willfully exposing workers to carbon dioxide levels deemed life threatening that were above the eight-hour time-weighted average of the permissible exposure limits. OSHA says Acadian failed to implement proper controls to reduce the carbon dioxide levels in the plant and provide workers with adequate respiratory protection. A willful violation is one committed with intentional, knowing or voluntary disregard for the law's requirements, or with plain indifference to worker safety and health, according to OSHA.

The company was cited for one repeat violation, with a penalty of $10,780, for failing to ensure an electrical panel box was enclosed to eliminate worker exposure to live electrical wires. A repeat violation exists when an employer previously has been cited for the same or a similar violation of a standard, regulation, rule or order at any other facility in federal enforcement states within the last five years. A similar violation was cited in the April 2012 inspection.

The citations can be viewed here.

Acadian Fine Foods' Church Point food processing plant employs about 29 workers and has 15 working days from receipt of its citations to comply, request an informal conference with OSHA's area director in Baton Rouge, or contest the citations and proposed penalties before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.