Green Township food processing plant cited by OSHA after worker's leg amputated
HomeHome > News > Green Township food processing plant cited by OSHA after worker's leg amputated

Green Township food processing plant cited by OSHA after worker's leg amputated

Jul 11, 2023

GREEN TOWNSHIP, Ohio — Months after a 29-year-old employee suffered critical injuries following a fall into an industrial blender, the U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) determined Zwanenberg Food Group in Green Township ignored safety standards — and it's not the first time.

The incident happened in October 2022 at the food packing facility on Muddy Creek Road. According to a press release from the U.S. Department of Labor, the 29-year-old employee was a temporary worker who'd been on the job just nine months when the incident happened. The employee was cleaning an industrial blender at the food processing plant when they fell in and became caught in the machine's rotating paddle augers.

As a result of their injuries, the employee's leg was amputated, the U.S. Department of Labor said.

OSHA investigators determined Zwanenberg Food Group did not sufficiently train workers to lock equipment before cleaning, which exposed them to moving machinery parts, the press release says.

During its investigation into the October 12 incident, OSHA cited "11 willful, four serious, one repeat and one other-than-serious violations" by Zwanenberg Food Group, according to the press release. OSHA has proposed $1.9 million in penalties for the violations.

According to OSHA's investigation, Zwanenberg willfully violated requirements surrounding lockout/tagout procedures for employees intended to power down machinery during cleaning.

Zwanenberg Food Group was cited by OSHA for similar violations less than two weeks before the 29-year-old's workplace injury, officials said. The company also failed to retrain employees when changes to the louckout/tagout procedures happened, OSHA said.

"This young man suffered a preventable, debilitating injury because his employers failed to train him and the majority of its third-shift sanitation workers adequately to lockout equipment to ensure their own safety," said Bill Donovan, OSHA regional administrator in Chicago, in a press release. "This tragedy is compounded by the fact that OSHA cited Zwanenberg for similar violations two weeks prior, and they continued to ignore their responsibility to protect workers in their plant."

In a statement, Zwanenberg spokesperson Jon Austin said while the company respects OSHA's authority, "in this instance we strongly and unequivocally disagree with several of its findings and its descriptions of the circumstances surrounding the very serious accident that injured one of our team members."

"We are confident that the legal process yet to unfold will reveal the true facts in this matter and specifically refute OSHA's contention that our colleague's grievous injury was caused by a lack of training when the facts show it was an unpreventable, inexplicable accident," Austin continued.

Austin also said training issues mentioned by OSHA in the press release had been corrected in 2022.

OSHA said it also placed Zwanenberg in its Severe Violator Enforcement Program in 2017, after it was found in violation of several similar rules.

OSHA said the company also willfully violated rules around annual inspections of energy control procedures for meat processing equipment; Zwanenberg was cited for this same violation in the same 2018 inspection that revealed the previous violation.

According to OSHA, Zwanenberg also required employees to work inside meat processing equipment to perform cleaning operations, which exposed those workers to the machine parts. The plant also didn't follow guidelines for ensuring that employees were protected from tripping hazards while walking in aisles during sanitation.

Another serious violation cites Zwanenberg's failure to provide employees with personal protective equipment like protective goggles. OSHA also found the company didn't properly mark machinery to indicate their purpose or connection to other machines.

Zwanenberg has 15 days from when they received the citation and penalty recommendations to request a conference with OSHA's area director or contest the findings before an independent commission.

"While this matter moves forward over the coming months, we will never lose sight of the fact that one of our team members was seriously injured in an accident that we wish we could have prevented and that remains inexplicable," Austin said in a statement. "We remain committed to working constructively and collaboratively with OSHA and to complying with all of the agency's regulations."

The Green Township location of Zwanenberg Food Group is the company's U.S. base, though the company is a subsidiary of a Holland-based company founded in 1875. The Green Township facility currently employs around 175 workers.

Zwanenberg has contested the citations and the case is going to the Independent Occupational Review Commission for final litigation; a spokesperson with OSHA said this process can take the better part of a year before an outcome is reached. While that investigation is ongoing, OSHA said it cannot comment on the case.

You can read OSHA's full report on the violations it found at Zwanenberg Food Group below:

OSHA Citations Zwanenburg by WCPO 9 News on Scribd

Watch Live: