One would expect subzero temperatures in the Arctic Circle and understand the need for a coat, but employees working in a 40-degree-below-zero Fahrenheit freezer at Birds Eye Foods Inc. in Darien were left in the cold. An investigation by OSHA found that the company expected employees to work in extreme temperatures without properly insulated personal protective equipment*. OSHA also discovered slip, trip and fall hazards on unclean freezer floors.
"OSHA's investigation uncovered that entry-level workers bought thermal protective equipment because Birds Eye Foods had not provided it. It was ridiculous that workers needed to spend money on protections their employer failed to provide," said Kim Stille, OSHA's area director in Madison.
OSHA initiated an inspection on May 27, 2014, after it received a complaint that alleged unsafe working conditions. The inspection of the frozen-food processing plant resulted in one repeat and 12 serious safety violations. The citations carry proposed penalties of $109,400.
The company was issued a repeat violation for failure to install fixed stairs to access elevations with tools and equipment, which exposed workers to fall hazards. Inspectors found the same violation at the Darien facility in June 2013.
The investigation also found serious violations with workers exposed to live electrical parts and hazards related to hexavalent chromium. An industrial process, such as welding on stainless steel or other alloy steels containing chromium metal, usually produces hexavalent chromium. Exposure to hexavalent chromium could cause cancer and adversely affect the respiratory system, kidneys, liver, skin and eyes.
To view the current citations, visit http://www.osha.gov/ooc/citations/BirdsEyeFoodsInc_978296.pdf*.
Birds Eye Foods employs about 600 workers at the Darien facility and is a division of Pinnacle Foods Inc., based in Parsippany, New Jersey. Pinnacle Foods also operates the Duncan Hines Grocery Division.