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Mar-Jac Poultry Faces More Than $212k in Penalties for 16-Year-Old Worker’s Death

Jan. 17, 2024
Teenage sanitation worker was killed at the Hattiesburg plant in July 2023, after being caught in equipment that had not been locked/tagged out during cleaning.

The U.S. Dept. of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has proposed $212,464 in penalties for Gainesville, Ga.-based Mar-Jac Poultry, penalty for safety violations OSHA says led to the death of a 16-year-old sanitation worker at the company’s Hattiesburg, Miss., facility, July 14, 2023.

Although the OSHA announcement of these citations only mentioned two fatalities at the plant in more than two years, local news reports show that this was the third fatality in just more than three years at the facility.

In the July 2023 incident, for which these citations apply, a 16-year-old was working as a sanitation contract worker employed by Onin Staffing LLC, and was performing a deep cleaning of the deboning area of the plant when the teen got caught in the rotating shaft and sprockets of a still-energized piece of equipment. The teen suffered fatal injuries from the incident.

Investigators said lockout/tagout procedures were not implemented, the machine’s power source was not disconnected and a lockout/tagout device was not used to prevent the machine from being unintentionally started up during sanitation — all despite a manager’s supervision in and around the area prior to and during the fatal incident.

The administration cited Mar-Jac with 14 serious and three other-than-serious violations, saying the company failed to:

  • Ensure energy control procedures were used to prevent the unexpected start-up of machines while employees performed sanitation, exposing workers to caught-in hazards.
  • Ensure employees used lockout/tagout devices on machinery when performing cleaning.
  • Ensure an energy control procedure included specific steps for blocking and securing portions of the machinery while workers performed cleaning.
  • Ensure the machinery retained guarding to prevent employees from entering danger zones while machinery was in operation.
  • Cover open holes in 480-volt electrical cabinets, exposing workers to electrical hazards.
  • Prevent workers from using portable ladders incorrectly to gain access to elevated work surfaces, exposing workers to fall hazards.

The Dept. of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division has an open child labor investigation with regard to the 16-year-old killed in the latest incident, and the matter is currently pending, the OSHA release said.

Mar-Jac has 15 business days from receipt of their citations and penalties to comply, request an informal conference with OSHA or contest the findings before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.

The previous fatal incident at the Hattiesburg facility occurred May 31, 2021, when an employee’s shirt sleeve was caught in a machine, and the employee was pulled into the equipment, resulting in that employee’s death. OSHA scolded Mar-Jac for not enforcing strict safety standards at the facility after the first incident, saying “two years later nothing has changed and the company continues to treat employee safety as an afterthought.”

Some six months prior to that 2021 incident, in December 2020, an employee at the Hattiesburg facility was seriously injured in the battery charging room and eventually passed away the following day. 

About the Author

Andy Hanacek | Senior Editor

Andy Hanacek has covered meat, poultry, bakery and snack foods as a B2B editor for nearly 20 years, and has toured hundreds of processing plants and food companies, sharing stories of innovation and technological advancement throughout the food supply chain. In 2018, he won a Folio:Eddie Award for his unique "From the Editor's Desk" video blogs, and he has brought home additional awards from Folio and ASBPE over the years. In addition, Hanacek led the Meat Industry Hall of Fame for several years and was vice president of communications for We R Food Safety, a food safety software and consulting company.

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