Ohio Food Processor Faces Nearly $2M in OSHA Penalties

A temporary worker suffered critical injuries while cleaning an industrial blender.

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CINCINNATI ‒ While working the overnight sanitation shift at an Ohio food processing plant, a 29-year-old temporary worker – on the job just nine months – suffered critical injuries after falling into an industrial blender he was cleaning and became caught in the rotating paddle augers. The worker’s injuries led to a leg amputation.

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Responding to the employer’s report of the Oct. 12, 2022, injury, investigators with the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration determined the host employer, Zwanenberg Food Group USA Inc., did not train sanitation workers to lockout the equipment prior to cleaning, exposing them to moving machine parts. OSHA cited the plant for similar violations less than two weeks before the injury.

OSHA proposed $1.9 million in penalties after citing 11 willful, four serious, one repeat and one other-than-serious violations, most involving required machine safety procedures that isolate energy to prevent movement during cleaning and maintenance. The agency placed Zwanenberg in its Severe Violator Enforcement Program in 2017.

“This young man suffered a preventable debilitating injury because his employer failed to train him and the majority of its third-shift sanitation workers adequately to lockout equipment to ensure their own safety,” said OSHA Regional Administrator Bill Donovan in Chicago. “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.”

The agency also found Zwanenberg failed to verify changes to the lockout/tagout procedures, retrain workers when changes occurred, periodically test the procedures and correct deviations. Trip hazards, electrical safe work procedures, lack of eye protection and personal protective equipment assessments were also noted.

“OSHA’s regional emphasis program for the food manufacturing industry specifically addresses common hazards found in these facilities,” explained OSHA Area Director Ken Montgomery in Cincinnati. “By following OSHA and industry-recognized safety standards, employers can prevent injuries like the one that occurred here.”

OSHA cited Zwanenberg Food Group USA in 2017, and on Sept. 30, 2022, for violations of machine safety procedures and other hazards. The company has contested the most recent violations.

Based in Cincinnati, Zwanenberg Food Group USA is a subsidiary of Holland-based Zwanenberg Food Group, founded in 1875. The privately held food company has 12 production facilities in the Netherlands, the United Kingdom and the U.S.. Zwanenberg’s product line includes cooked ham, chili, luncheon meat, soups, stew, corned beef hash and pastas marketed under the Vietti, Southgate, Halal and other private label brands. The company employs about 175 workers at the Cincinnati facility.

The company has 15 business days from receipt of the 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.

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