OSHA, DOL Launch Investigations into the Death of a 16-Year-Old Boy at Mar-Jac Poultry

OSHA, DOL Launch Investigations into the Death of a 16-Year-Old Boy at Mar-Jac Poultry

Another worker died in 2021 due to injuries at the Mississippi facility.

The Mar-Jac Poultry plant in Hattiesburg, Mississippi, was the home of tragedy once again, as a 16-year-old worker from Guatemala lost his life following injuries sustained on the job. 

According to NBC News, Duvan Tomas Perez, whose death authorities said was caused by equipment, became “entangled in machinery” at the Mar-Jac plant on July 14, 2023. Following the incident, OSHA and the U.S. Department of Labor’s (DOL) Wage and Hour Division launched investigations.

As it turns out, Mar-Jac has a history of OSHA violations. In May 2021, another employee died at the plant after his sleeve was caught in a machine, leaving him pinned “partially” underneath. Mar-Jac contested OSHA’s fine of $27,306; the case is still open. Just a few months later, per OSHA, an employee lost the tip of her index finger on the job, inciting an $11,396 fine. That case closed in June 2023. 

Regarding Perez’s death, reps at Mar-Jac claim the staffing agencies it partners with are to blame, per an NBC article. Under law, minors are prohibited from working in poultry plants because they are “particularly hazardous,” according to 29 CFR 570.61. And verifying such details as age about prospective employees is the responsibility of the staffing company itself, per the article. Mar-Jac has denied knowledge Perez was under the age of 18 prior to his hiring. 

“Although the investigation is still ongoing, it appears now that this worker was less than 18 years of age and should not have been hired,” the company said in a statement (via NBC News). “Mar-Jac would never knowingly put any employee, and certainly not a minor, in harm's way, but it appears, at this point in the investigation, that this individual's age and identity were misrepresented on the paperwork.” 

Mar-Jac said in a statement it had launched an audit with its staffing companies to identify the source of the error and prevent re-occurrence. In the meantime, Joe Colee—manager of the facility—claimed in a statement the company was cooperating with OSHA. This incident comes just months after news broke of the Biden administration’s crackdown on child labor violations. 

Reps at OSHA did not respond to a request for comment on Perez’s death.

About the Author

Robert Yaniz Jr. is the Content Editor of Occupational Health & Safety.

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