Milk Specialties to Pay $535K after Inspection Turns Sour

Milk Specialties Co. in Whitehall, Wis., has agreed to pay $535,000 in penalties as part of a legal settlement with the U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration after being cited with willful, repeat, and serious violations concerning combustible dust hazards, untrained employees working in potentially dangerous areas, and a lack of proper permits for working in confined spaces.

The company engages in the research, development, and manufacture of protein and fat products for nutritional applications and feeding regimes that include products such as pasteurized milk extenders, spray-dried protein encapsulated fats, dried whey permeates, and condensed whey and liquid whey products.

"We are pleased that Milk Specialties Co. has recognized and agreed to abate the health and safety violations addressed in the settlement," said Assistant Secretary of Labor for OSHA Dr. David Michaels. "Our number one concern is to ensure the safety and welfare of all workers. With this agreement, I am confident the company is moving in the right direction."

OSHA began a December 2008 inspection in response to a complaint alleging a variety of safety hazards at the company's whey processing plant. Willful citations were issued for the employer's failure to comply with OSHA's confined space entry and control of hazardous energy requirements. Untrained employees entered confined spaces and performed maintenance and cleaning on powered equipment without protection from various hazards, the agency said. Penalties for the nine willful violations total $504,000. A willful violation is one committed with intentional, knowing or voluntary disregard for the law's requirement, or plain indifference to employee safety and health.

Seventeen serious citations, with penalties totaling $21,855, address combustible dust and electrical hazards; lack of exit route lighting and signage; lack of confined space evaluations; uninspected fire extinguishers; and untrained and uncertified powered industrial truck operators, among other issues. An OSHA violation is serious if death or serious physical harm can result from a hazard an employer knew or should have known exists.

Four repeat violations with penalties totaling $9,145 address the guarding of floor and wall openings, ladders, and respiratory protection, and other issues addressed in previous inspections of this company.

Milk Specialties has been inspected by OSHA 15 times since 1974, including four inspections in Wisconsin between 2006 and 2008, with citations resulting from many of the same safety and health hazards cited in the most recent inspection, OSHA said.

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