CINCINNATI ‒ A federal workplace safety investigation at one of the world’s leading suppliers of processed foods found a temporary worker’s finger amputation occurred when they reached into a meat grinder’s discharge port that lacked required safety guards.
On June 23, the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration responded to a report of a serious injury suffered by a 29-year-old kitchen worker at Zwanenberg Food Group USA in Cincinnati. OSHA learned that the worker had been on the job seven months.
OSHA cited the company for two repeat violations, one for not having required machine guarding on the discharge port, and one for failing to train employees on the company’s lockout/tagout procedures. Zwanenberg Food Group USA faces $242,197 in proposed OSHA penalties.
The incident — the second time since 2022 that a temporary worker suffered an amputation — marks the fourth time since 2017 that OSHA inspectors have found the company violated lockout/tagout safety standards meant to protect workers from contact with moving machine parts. Zwanenberg Food Group USA’s safety failures led OSHA to include the company in the agency’s Severe Violator Enforcement Program in 2017.
OSHA viewed the most recent incident as part of a pattern that led the agency to investigate if workers at Zwanenberg faced imminent danger from unguarded or inadequately guarded machinery. With production paused after the incident, the company agreed to correct guarding hazards on its processing equipment, train employees on safe machine operation, and implement safety program improvements, all of which OSHA will monitor.
“While they have taken a first important step at this plant, Zwanenberg Food Group needs to change their workplace culture and make worker safety a priority,” said OSHA Area Director Ken Montgomery in Cincinnati. “As an employer, they are responsible for protecting their temporary workers and making sure they are trained on workplace hazards and control measures to address those hazards.”
In April 2023, OSHA assessed the company $1.9 million in proposed penalties after another temporary worker suffered injuries on Oct. 12, 2022. OSHA cited the plant for similar violations less than two weeks before the October 2022 injury. The company is contesting both 2022 investigations.
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 U.S., Netherlands and United Kingdom. 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 contested the findings and will appear before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.