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Worker fatality at Mass. seafood company uncovers multiple hazards

June 19, 2014
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OSHA Enforcement ActivityAn OSHA investigation following the death of a worker at a New Bedford fish processing plant has resulted in serious safety violations against his employer, Sea Watch International Ltd.

The 35-year-old sanitation supervisor died on Jan. 16, 2014, after he was caught in the rotating parts of the shucking machine he was cleaning.

"This worker should not have died"

Sea Watch International Ltd. was found to have failed to protect workers who service or maintain machines.

"This worker should not have died. This death was preventable if the company had implemented the required safety practices," said Brenda Gordon, OSHA's area director for southeastern Massachusetts.

The company was cited for failing to implement lockout/tagout procedures that protect workers who clean machinery. The violations include failure to provide a lockout device; incomplete lockout/tagout procedures; not conducting periodic inspections of these procedures to ensure that all requirements were being met; and failure to train all affected sanitation employees in lockout/tagout procedures. OSHA found that plant employees were exposed to fall hazards and were not trained in up-to-date chemical hazard communication methods.

Temp agency cited, too

OSHA also cited Workforce Unlimited Inc., the Johnston, R.I., temporary employment company that supplied temporary workers to the plant, for three serious violations for lack of lockout/tagout procedures, lack of chemical hazard communication training and for exposing workers to ladder hazards. Workforce Unlimited Inc. was cited as a joint employer because it had a supervisor on-site with knowledge of the working conditions.

Sea Watch employs 15 full-time workers at its New Bedford plant; 185 of the workers at the plant were temporary employees supplied by Workforce Unlimited.

About OSHA's temp worker safety iniative

Concerned about a growing trend of injuries and deaths involving temporary workers, OSHA launched an initiative in 2013 to address the issue. In every inspection, OSHA inspectors determine if every temporary worker at a work site has received the safety training and protections required by law for the job. If not, the employment agency and host employer may both be cited for violations.

"Host employers need to treat temporary workers as they treat existing employees. Temporary staffing agencies and host employers share joint responsibility for temporary employees' safety and health. It is essential that both employers and staffing agencies comply with all relevant OSHA requirements," said Robert B. Hooper, OSHA's acting regional administrator for New England.

 Proposed fines against Sea Watch total $35,410, while fines against Workforce Unlimited total $9,000.  

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