PLOVER, Wis. ‒ At a Wisconsin Del Monte Foods cannery, a 20-year-old seasonal worker suffered a partial amputation of their finger after attempting to unjam an unguarded palletizer machine, a federal workplace safety investigation found.
Responding to the employer’s report of the amputation injury, investigators with the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration determined the cannery’s lack of machine guarding and safety procedures exposed employees to machine hazards. In 2019, the agency cited the company for similar violations at another Wisconsin facility in Markesan.
Investigators learned workers routinely used their hands to redirect pallets stuck in the palletizer’s dispenser. A pallet dispenser will automatically dispense pallets to the palletizing line so that canned products can be stacked and wrapped for transportation. Investigators found that employees clearing jams had not been trained to recognize or safely control hazardous energy sources during the unjamming process.
OSHA issued a citation to Del Monte Foods Inc. for two repeated and six serious safety violations of machine safety and fall protection standards. The company faces proposed penalties of $222,779. The company informed OSHA of the amputation injury within 24 hours, as required.
“Del Monte Foods Inc. is aware of the importance of training their seasonal workers on machine safety procedures and making sure required machine safeguards are in place,” explained OSHA Area Director Robert Bonack in Appleton, Wisconsin. “If the company had followed OSHA safety standards, they could have prevented this young worker from needlessly suffering a lifelong disabling injury.”
In addition to the machine guarding and hazardous energy control procedure deficiencies, OSHA noted a lack of handrails and anti-slip coatings exposed cannery workers to fall hazards on ladderways and stairs.
Based in Walnut Creek, California, Del Monte Foods Inc. is one of the nation’s largest producers, distributors and marketers of branded retail food products. The Plover facility produces 14 million cases of canned vegetables annually. The company sells products under the Del Monte, Contadina, College Inn, Joyba, Kitchen Basics and S&W brands.
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.