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Meat processor cited after nearly fatal workplace injuries

The California Division of Occupational Safety and Health says the failure of company owners to ensure that workers follow established lockout/tagout procedures when machines are repaired, adjusted or cleaned is one of the main causes of serious injuries and even death. These procedures must be enforced to ensure that machines are deactivated during such operations. Nearly-fatal workplace injuries at a meat processing plant in San Luis Obispo gave rise to a Cal/OSHA investigation that led to a combined fine of $74,500 for the company and an agency that places temporary workers.

Investigators determined that an untrained worker tried to remove ground meat that was causing an obstruction in the hopper that mixes the meat before moving it into the meat grinder. The worker reportedly reached into the hopper that has rotating paddles without turning the power to the machine off. His right hand was crushed, his arm was fractured and he suffered nerve damage. CAL/OSHA says the paddles in the machine rotated twice, and if it had rotated one more time, the worker would have lost his life.

Work areas at which lockout/tagout devices are absent can cause workers to be electrocuted or to be permanently disfigured when machines are inadvertently activated while repairs, cleaning or maintenance is underway. Cal/OSHA investigators also determined that the company neglected to provide safety training that would educate workers about the potential dangers of hazards that could cause serious injuries and even death. The agency says it is the responsibility of both the company owner and the placement agency to ensure that workers receive the required training.

Any California worker who suffers workplace injuries is entitled to pursue benefits claims through the workers' compensation insurance system. Benefits typically include compensation for medical expenses and lost income. In cases in which debilitating injuries are suffered, such as this one in which the worker may have lost the use of his hand and the nerve damage may also limit the use of his arm, additional benefits may be pursued. An experienced workers' compensation attorney may be able to assist in obtaining the maximum compensation that could also cover future medical expenses and income.

Source: workerscompensation.com, "Cal/OSHA Cites Two Employers for Serious Meat-Grinder Accident", Jan. 27, 2016

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