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Anaheim, CA-based Bridgford Food Processing Corp. is facing fines of $184,000 for four safety – including willful and repeat – violations at the company’s Chicago meat processing facility after a worker suffered amputations of two fingers Feb. 7 while operating a vacuum packaging machine, said Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) officials.

A second worker suffered an injury operating the same machine Jan. 25, and suffered deep lacerations and tendon damage on four fingers.

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Bridgford Food Processing Corp., a manufacturer of various processed and frozen foods, employs 140 workers at its Chicago meat processing location and 535 companywide, with two other facilities in Dallas, TX, and one in Statesville, NC. This inspection is OSHA’s ninth of the Chicago facility since 2007.

“Bridgford Food Processing previously was cited for improper lockout procedures and machine guarding. Repeat violations demonstrate a blatant disregard for employee safety and health,” said Gary Anderson, OSHA’s area director in Calumet City. “Machinery in the food processing industry is inherently dangerous, and the company has an obligation to take necessary precautions to prevent injuries.”

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OSHA found workers used magnets and other tools to override guarding interlock systems on machines. One willful violation stems from not affixing lockout/tagout devices to all energy sources and preventing workers from coming into contact with machines’ points of operation. OSHA deemed this violation willful because, despite the company’s history of injuries caused by lockout failures, Bridgford had taken few precautionary measures to prevent similar incidents at the facility. A willful violation is one committed with intentional, knowing or voluntary disregard for the law’s requirements, or with plain indifference to worker safety and health.

Two repeat violations involve failing to develop and train employees in machine-specific lockout/tagout procedures. A repeat violation exists when an employer previously faced the same or a similar violation of a standard, regulation, rule or order at any other facility in federal enforcement states within the last five years. Similar violations occurred after a July 2010 inspection at the same facility.

One serious violation involves improperly guarding machines. A serious violation occurs when there is substantial probability that death or serious physical harm could result from a hazard about which the employer knew or should have known.

OSHA placed Bridgford Food Processing on the Severe Violator Enforcement Program after finding willful and repeat safety violations based on the July 2010 inspection at the Chicago plant. Those violations involved exposing workers to energized equipment by failing to implement and provide training on lockout/tagout procedures. OSHA conducted follow-up inspections at the Chicago and Dallas facilities under the program, which mandates follow-up inspections of recalcitrant employers that have endangered workers by committing willful, repeat or failure-to-abate violations.

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