$702,300 Fine Issued to Firm after Fatality at Hummus-Making Plant

A contract employee who was cleaning and sanitizing a machine used in the hummus manufacturing process was caught, pulled into the machine, and crushed to death between two rotating augers.

OSHA has cited Tribe Mediterranean Foods, a subsidiary of Nestle SA, which manufactures Tribe brand hummus products, for 18 alleged violations of workplace safety standards following the death of a worker at its Taunton, Mass., production plant. OSHA's South Boston Area Office opened an inspection on Dec. 16, 2011, after a contract employee who was cleaning and sanitizing a machine used in the hummus manufacturing process was caught, pulled into the machine, and crushed to death between two rotating augers. Tribe Mediterranean Foods faces a total of $702,300 in proposed fines.

OSHA's investigation found that the company had not trained the deceased worker and six other workers who cleaned plant machinery on hazardous energy control or "lockout/tagout" procedures. These are the procedures employers must put into effect and train workers to follow to shut down machines and lock out their power sources before cleaning or performing maintenance on them. OSHA requires that employers train workers so that they understand the purpose of the energy control procedures and have the knowledge and skills required to safely utilize them.

"The employer knew it needed to train these workers so they could protect themselves against just this type of hazard but failed to do so. The result was a needless and avoidable loss of life," said Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health Dr. David Michaels. "In this case, Tribe Mediterranean Foods' knowledge and continuous disregard for an obvious and deadly hazard was so pronounced that we are issuing seven willful citations for lack of training, one for each untrained worker exposed to the hazard."

Tribe Mediterranean Foods is reviewing the OSHA citations. A spokeswoman said Monday that the company "deeply regrets" the accident and that the company remains committed to the safety of its employees.

When there is a particularly egregious lack of compliance and exposure to hazards, OSHA can issue citations on a per-instance basis, in this case, representing one willful violation for each untrained employee exposed to a hazard.

OSHA has issued the company citations for two additional willful violations, one for failing to adequately train maintenance workers to recognize hazardous energy sources, and one for failing to develop and utilize lockout/tagout procedures.

Citations for three repeat violations have been issued for failing to conduct periodic inspections of the energy control procedures, inadequate guarding of rotating blades on blending tanks, and an exposed chain and sprocket on a conveyor. OSHA cited Tribe Mediterranean Foods, doing business as FoodTech International Inc., in October 2009 for similar hazards at its New Haven, Conn., plant.

Finally, Tribe Mediterranean Foods has been issued citations covering six serious violations for electrical, slipping, fall, pallet jack, and additional machine guarding hazards.

Due to the willful and repeat violations and the nature of the hazards, OSHA has placed Tribe Mediterranean Foods in its Severe Violator Enforcement Program, which mandates targeted follow-up inspections to ensure compliance with the law.

Tribe Mediterranean Foods is a subsidiary of Tivall 1993 LTD, which is owned by Osem Investments Limited, a subsidiary of Nestle SA. The Osem Group of companies produces and distributes certified-kosher food products in Israel, Europe, and the United States.

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