W. Curt Vincent Editor
August 14, 2013
TAR HEEL — The N.C. Department of Labor has come down hard on violations at the Smithfield Packing Co. in Tar Heel, leveling fines totaling $44,100.
According to information supplied by the N.C. Department of Labor, citations were issued to the company following a series of occupational safety and health inspections. The company received citations for two alleged serious violations and one alleged repeat serious violation.
The first inspection focused on the injury of an employee on April 20, while the subsequent inspection was based on a complaint filed with the N.C. Department of Labor a few weeks prior to the accident. The information specified the following violations:
— Serious violation: The rotating taper lock of a Dodge Quantis brand gear box had unguarded set screws exposing employees to caught in hazards. This condition resulted in an accident on or about April 30. Fine: $6,300.
— Serious violation: The employer had permanent equipment such as overhead conveyor systems and duct work that obstructed the exit route of employees working atop a mezzanine. Fine: $6,300.
— Repeat serious violation: 1a) the employer did not provide guards such as barrier guards for employees who were exposed to point of operation hazards at two snout wheels that had unguarded areas that were 6 inches wide and 1 foot long on; 1b) an AEW Thurn brand meat cutting band saw, model 400, serial number 133516, had 2 to 6 inches of exposed and unguarded cutting blade above the material being cut while processing specialty cuts; 1c) a Biro brand meat cutting band saw, model 3334, had 2 to 6 inches of exposed and unguarded cutting blade above the material being cut while processing specialty cuts; 1d) an AEW Thurn brand meat cutting band saw, model 400, had 2 to 6 inches of exposed and unguarded cutting blade above the material being cut while processing specialty cuts; and 2a) barrier guards for protecting employees from impalement and pinch point hazards on the jaw breaker equipment. Fine: $31,500.
According to the general statutes of the Occupational Safety and Health Act of North Carolina, the maximum penalty for each serious violation is $7,000 — but penalties for repeat violations are doubled for the first repeat violation, multiplied by five on the second repeat violation and multiplied by 10 on the third and subsequent repeat violations.
“Fines are issued to penalize the offending employer, but also to get the attention of other employees with similar work environments,” said Neal O’Briant, public information officer with the N.C. Department of Labor. “By law, the civil money penalties collected by the N.C. Department of Labor are not the receipts of the department, but rather must be remitted to the Civil Penalty and Forfeiture Fund, which then distributed them monies to the public school systems.”
Attempts to reach a spokesperson with Smithfield Packing Co. were unsuccessful.
The company has 15 working days from the receipt of the citations to request an informal conference with the N.C. Department of Labor, to file a notice of contest with the Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission of North Carolina — an independent board appointed by the governor to hear appeals of OSH citations — or to pay the penalty.