Tyson Foods Cited for Violations after Employee Finger Amputation

Cited for multiple violations, Tyson Foods was fined $263,498 by the U.S. Department of Labor Occupational Safety and Health Administration after an employee’s finger was amputated in an unguarded conveyor belt, the DOL reported yesterday.

Inspectors found recessed drains and fire hazards resulting from improperly stored compressed gas cylinders, which exposed employees to slip-and-fall hazards due to a lack of proper drainage.

Established in 1935 and headquartered in Springdale, Arkansas, Tyson is the world’s Tysonlargest meat and poultry processing company, with more than $40 billion in annual sales. The company produces more than 68 million pounds of meat per week. OSHA gave Tyson 15 business days from receipt of its citations to comply, request an informal conference with OSHA’s area director, or contest the citations and penalties before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.

“Tyson Foods must do much more to prevent disfiguring injuries like this one from happening,” Dr. David Michaels, assistant secretary of labor for Occupational Safety and Health, said in a statement. “As one of the nation’s largest food suppliers, it should set an example for workplace safety rather than drawing multiple citations from OSHA for ongoing safety failures.”

OSHA inspectors found more than a dozen serious violations, including:

  • Failing to ensure proper safety guards on moving machine parts
  • Allowing carbon dioxide levels above the permissible exposure limit
  • Failing to provide personal protective equipment
  • Exposing employees to an airborne concentration of carbon dioxide
  • Not training employees on hazards associated with peracetic acid and other chemicals.

OSHA also cited the company for repeated violations for not making sure employees used appropriate eye or face protection when exposed to eye or face hazards. The agency cited Tyson for a similar violation in a 2012 investigation at its Carthage facility. The company also failed to separate compressed gas cylinders of oxygen and acetylene while in storage – a violation for which OSHA cited the company in 2013 at its facility in Albertville, Alabama.

According to OSHA, the inspection falls under its Regional Emphasis Program for Poultry Processing Facilities.

NFL Admits Game’s Link to Concussion Risk

football

After years of denying that the game of football could have caused degenerative brain disease in some players, the National Football League has finally admitted there is a link connecting the game to chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE). According to the New York Times:

Representative Jan Schakowsky, Democrat of Illinois, asked during a round-table discussion about concussions whether “there is a link between football and degenerative brain disorders like CTE,”

Jeff Miller, the NFL’s senior vice president for health and safety policy, said, “The answer to that is certainly, yes.” His response signaled a stunning about-face for the league, which has been accused by former players and independent experts of hiding the dangers of head injuries for decades.

Miller’s comments were backed the next day by league spokesperson Brian McCarthy. Miller’s answer may actually help the NFL, as “It could make it harder in the future for a player to accuse the league of concealing the dangers of the sport,” the Times said.

“Strategically, the NFL’s admission makes a world of sense,” Jeffrey A. Standen, dean of the Chase College of Law at Northern Kentucky University, told the Times. “The league has paid a settlement to close all the claims previous to 2015. For future sufferers, the NFL has now effectively put them on notice that their decision to play professional football comes with the acknowledged risk of degenerative brain disease.”

While CTE has been found in former players, the NFL has for decades denied the danger, even after researchers with Boston University announced in 2014 that, in autopsies of 79 brains of former NFL players, 76 tested positive for CTE. A report in 2003 by the Center for the Study of Retired Athletes at the University of North Carolina found a connection between concussions and depression among former professional football players.

According to a 2007 UNC study, Recurrent Concussion and Risk of Depression in Retired Professional Football Players:

Our observed threefold prevalence ratio for retired players with three or more concussions is daunting, given that depression is typically characterized by sadness, loss of interest in activities, decreased energy, and loss of confidence and self-esteem. These findings call into question how effectively retired professional football players with a history of three or more concussions are able to meet the mental and physical demands of life after playing professional football.

The NFL has directed millions of dollars to research of CTE and head trauma and it gave $45 million to USA Football to promote safe tackling and reassure parents that football’s risks can be mitigated through on-field techniques and awareness, the Times said.

NYC Crane Collapse Part of a Troubling Trend

NYC Crane Collapse

Last week’s crane collapse in Lower Manhattan, which killed one person and injured three others, has heightened focus on crane safety, resulting in stricter rules for operators. The 565-foot crane toppled as it was being secured against high winds as a safety precaution.

More than 140 firefighters responded to the disaster in addition to police officers and utility workers who were there in case of gas leaks or other damage caused by the impact.

Mayor Bill de Blasio called for an investigation and instituted new safety policies effective immediately, while ordering that 376 other crawler cranes and 53 larger tower cranes currently operating in the city also be secured. The new rules require crawler cranes to cease operations and go into safety mode when there is a forecast for steady wind speeds of at least 20 miles per hour, or gusts of at least 30 m.p.h. Previously, cranes were allowed to operate until measured wind speeds reached 30 m.p.h. or gusts increased to 40 m.p.h.

“I want people to hear me loud and clear: We’ve had some construction site incidents that are very troubling,” de Blasio said at a news conference. “We have more and more inspectors who are going to get on top of that. We’re going to be very tough on those companies.”

He added, “We’ll send advisories to crane engineers when wind conditions warrant it, and engineers will be required to certify that they will indeed cease operations. If we don’t receive this certification, we will be issuing violations and we will raise the base penalty for failure to safeguard a site from the current $4,800 to $10,000.”

While construction in the city has increased over the past two years, the New York Times reported that the rise in deaths and injuries has exceeded the rate of new construction, that supervision at building sites was often lacking, and that preventative safety steps were not being taken.

Indeed, the list of incidents involving cranes has grown to eight since 2008, according to ABC News and the Associated Press.

— March 2008: A nearly 200-foot-tall crane fell as it was being lengthened in a neighborhood near the U.N. headquarters, demolishing a townhouse and killing six construction workers and a tourist. The crane rigger was tried and acquitted of manslaughter. An inspector accused of falsely saying he had checked the crane days before it toppled was acquitted of charges related to the collapse but convicted of falsifying inspection records related to other cranes.

— May 2008: A tower crane snapped, fell apart and crashed into a Manhattan apartment building, killing the crane operator and a construction worker on the ground. The crane owner was acquitted of manslaughter. A mechanic pleaded guilty to criminally negligent homicide. Together, the 2008 collapses prompted the resignation of the city buildings commissioner and a bribery case in which the city’s chief crane inspector pleaded guilty to taking payoffs to fake inspection and licensing exam results. The collapses also led to new safety measures, including hiring more inspectors and expanding training requirements and inspection checklists.

However, Comptroller Scott Stringer said in a 2014 audit that the city Department of Buildings hadn’t fully implemented safety recommendations on cranes and other issues, and Stringer reiterated his concerns Friday. The Department of Buildings disputed some of the audit’s conclusions, but spokesman Joe Soldevere said the agency had implemented many of the comptroller’s recommendations and “there is more oversight of cranes in place than ever before.”

— October 2012: A crane’s boom nearly snapped off and dangled precariously over a block near Carnegie Hall during Superstorm Sandy, as winds gusted to an estimated 80 to 100 mph. No one was injured, but people in a nearby hotel and other neighboring buildings had to flee in the midst of the storm as engineers scaled 74 stories to make sure the crane wasn’t in danger of falling.

— April 2012: A mobile crane’s boom fell and broke apart while hauling rebar at a subway station construction site, killing a worker. The site was exempt from most city construction safety rules because it belonged to a state transit authority.

— January 2013: A crane’s 170-foot-long boom fell and pulled down part of the wooden framework of an apartment tower under construction in Queens, injuring seven workers. Three workers had to be extricated from beneath fallen machinery.

— April 2015: Hydraulics malfunctioned on a small crane mounted on a truck while a worker was inspecting it in Manhattan, causing the boom to collapse and fall on him, killing him. The device wasn’t subject to the same regulations and inspections as larger cranes.

— May 2015: A mobile crane dropped a 13-ton air conditioning unit being placed atop a Manhattan office building. The air conditioning equipment fell 28 stories into the middle of an avenue. Ten people were injured by debris, and part of the building facade was shattered.

Zero Tolerance Needed to Stop Construction Injuries

Photo by Caroline McDonald

NASHVILLE–For David B. Walls, president and chief executive officer of Austin Industries, construction safety became a lifelong mission the day he had to answer to the father of a worker killed in an accident. “Why did you kill my son?” he asked Walls over and over.

“Those words haunted me,” Walls said during his keynote address at the IRMI Construction Risk Conference here. “Nothing I could do would bring him back.” Tragic events such as this are “defining moments,” he said. “But we need to get passionate about safety without experiencing a fatality.” Walls explained that the construction industry has a long way to go, with the worst record for fatalities, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Organizations, he added, should focus on the physical work environment and the company culture. They also need to realize that a world-class safety program leads to higher quality throughout the organization.

One prerequisite is strong leadership. A good leader takes the time to really listen to people, admits to making mistakes and shares recognition for a project well done with employees, he said. This person also should be consistent in addressing safety issues and assertive enough to stop workers from continuing on a job if unsafe conditions are evident.

An effective leader needs to be accountable and hold the entire team accountable when it comes to safety. For example, workers need to know that breaking certain safety rules could cost them their job. After all, he said, “you have a moral obligation to get employees home to their families each night in a safe condition.”

Walls recommended frequent discussions of company successes as well as failures. Weekly dialogues of near-misses, for example, can raise awareness about how they could have been prevented and encourage safe behaviors. Posting the safety records of contractors “makes them improve quickly,” he said. Walls advocates for both classroom and thorough on-the-job training.

Safety managers and employees also need to focus on what they might be overlooking, the “sins of omission.” For example, he said, “what are you not doing that you could be doing to save lives?” The litmus test, he added, would be for a manager to ask him or herself, “Would I let my child work here?”

Asked by an audience member how to get the necessary buy-in from a CEO, Walls advised, “Get the CEO to walk the job and see the hazards. Go to the job site and see where someone fell and where the accident took place. Two to three people a day are dying in this industry and it is unacceptable.”