OSHA hits Wisconsin sausage-maker with $70,000 in fines

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The U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has cited Jones Dairy Farms in Fort Atkinson, Wis., for 15 safety and health violations, including employee overexposure to respirable dust, failure to implement a respiratory protection program and failure to properly store hazardous chemicals. The company faces fines of $70,000.

Jones Dairy Farms is a sausage-maker, not a farm with live dairy cattle.

Yet, it serves as a possible warning for dairy farms. Earlier this year, Mary Bauer, an OSHA compliance assistant specialist, announced that Wisconsin would be stepping up its inspection of dairy farms, noting that a recent increase in on-farm fatalities is prompting the inspections.

"Employers have a responsibility to ensure all employees have safe working environments, which includes taking all necessary precautions to protect them from exposure to hazardous substances," says Kimberly Stille, OSHA's area director in Madison, Wis. "Employers are responsible for knowing what hazards exist in their workplaces and ensuring that workers are not exposed to unnecessary risks."

Regarding Jones Dairy Farms, OSHA conducted an inspection in January. Citations for eight serious safety violations, with proposed penalties of $42,000, were issued for open-sided platforms; damaged storage racks; a missing tongue guard on a grinder; having a compressed air gun registered over 30 pounds per square inch; storing oxygen and acetylene cylinders together; failing to have a working pressure gauge on the acetylene cylinder; missing a flash back arrestor on the acetylene cylinder, and using electrical equipment that was not free from hazards.

Additionally, citations for six serious health violations, with proposed penalties of $28,000, were issued for failing to establish and implement a respiratory protection program; failing to have written operating procedures for high stage compressors; failing to establish procedures to manage changes to process chemicals; storing incompatible hazardous chemicals together; using equipment that had not been approved for ignitable or combustible properties and failing to train employees on the physical and health hazards of chemicals in the work area.

A serious citation is issued 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.

Jones Dairy also was issued one other-than-serious health citation for not providing employees with basic advisory information on respirators. No penalty was assessed for this violation. An other-than-serious citation is one that has a direct relationship to job safety and health, but probably would not cause death or serious injury.

OSHA fines can range from a couple hundred dollars to $70,000, depending upon the seriousness of the violation. Some penalties may even result in jail time.

Jones Dairy has 15 business days from receipt of its citations and penalties to comply, request an informal conference with OSHA's area director or contest the findings before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.

The citations at Jones Dairy farm are a good reminder that it’s time to make sure your farm is ready for an OSHA inspection. For more information, look to the June issue of Dairy Herd Management to read: Knock, knock, it's OSHA. Resources on where to go for help are also included in the article.

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Pete Giacomini    
Verona WI  |  June, 16, 2011 at 09:56 AM

Big flaw in your article - "Jones Dairy Farm" is not a dairy farm. It's a meat processing operation; a sausage maker. I can't explain the name, but it has been a long time since this operation saw live dairy cattle.

79601  |  June, 16, 2011 at 10:06 AM

Before fining any dairy you must post the standards with a discussion period. You just put that dairy out of business I figure. I AM FOR DISBANDING OF OSHA!!! Have been for years because of their silly regulations. A BUNCH OF IDIOTS!!!!!

WI  |  June, 16, 2011 at 11:40 AM

I was really concerned about this article, but when I looked up the farm it really is a manufacturing facility for meat processing as Pete said. You have just created a lot of worry in dairy farmers by not checking your facts.

Julian NC  |  June, 16, 2011 at 11:48 AM

Well, I see it plainly says in the article, "Jones Dairy Farms is a sausage-maker, not a farm with live dairy cattle. Yet, it serves as a possible warning for dairy farms.". I fail to see the 'flaw'....

Holly Bcon    
Amherst, WI  |  June, 16, 2011 at 04:07 PM

Clint - they changed/added that information ASAP when they were called on it. It read DAIRY first time I read it.

Safety Man    
West Greenwich, RI  |  June, 17, 2011 at 12:18 PM

Yeah, OSHA reg's. can be a little broad brushed, but the fact remains that there are fatalities on the farm operation which are clearly preventable. Education and worker awareness outreach is an important tool regarding workplace safety. I see too often violations of confined space when it comes to manure handling and silo/bin entry, all of which could result in certain death at anytime. Also many issues regarding farm equipment and other mechanical devices such as unloaders, augers, etc. when it comes to lock out tag out/block and blank. Never mind caught between and struck by, guarding, and electrical. Sometimes OSHA will jump on the farm safety without a plan. The construction and general industry have OSHA Outreach programs which are emphasized fully to these workers. The agricultural world has these resources but they are not as prevalent. We need to have OSHA provide more Train the Trainer programs for a specific agricultural outreach program so these authorized trainers can get together with local farmers and assist them with training. Hopefully if a proactive approach is to this is instituted, then OSHA may not mandate training ie a 10 hour card requirement in order to even work on a farm operation. I always say that safety training and compliance are cheaper than a defending a lawsuit because of an accidental death which occurred because of a violation. Especially hard if the deceased is a family member or owner which sometimes puts the whole operation at risk of folding. Too many lives and years wasted for a little safety training.

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