OSHA: Dole workers exposed to ‘amputation hazard’ at Springfield plant

Feb 06, 2018

Dole’s Springfield plant was cited for a safety hazard last fall after an employee was exposed to an amputation hazard, according to OSHA documents obtained by the Springfield News-Sun.

Dole Fresh Vegetables Inc. has contested the alleged safety violations and fines connected to the Springfield plant at 600 Benjamin Drive and the case remains open, according to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s website. Officials from Dole declined to comment or provide any further information about the status of the case this week.

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The News-Sun received copies of the citations and Dole’s letter contesting the allegations through a Freedom of Information Act request filed with OSHA’s Cincinnati office. The News-Sun initially reported the citations late last year but few details about the case were available at that time. OSHA declined to release more than 150 pages of documents, it said in a letter to News-Sun, because the alleged violations have been contested.

The inspection documents that were release show two alleged violations.

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A citation for what was labeled as a serious violation for the alleged “control of hazardous energy (lockout/tagout)” was filed in early October and the company was issued a proposed penalty for $12,675.

Another citation labeled a repeat violation for alleged “mechanical power-transmission apparatus” was filed by OSHA the same day with a $69,713 proposed penalty, for a total of $82,388 in proposed penalties, according to OSHA documents.

The federal agency has this note on the top of the inspection form: “The following inspection has not been indicated as closed. Please be aware that the information shown may change, e.g. violations may be added or deleted.”

On Aug. 18, 2017, a maintenance employee at the Springfield facility allegedly was “exposed to an amputation hazard while inspecting a pulley and belt on a Heinzen Centrifuge Dryer when he moved his hand up underneath where a pulley and belt were located and about this time the dryer machine started operating,” according to the citation documents obtained by the News-Sun.

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The second citation, labeled as “Repeat,” says “On Aug. 18, 2017, in the Dryer Room, a maintenance employee was exposed to an amputation hazard when reaching underneath an inadequately guarded pulley and belt located on (Centrifuge) Dryer Deck No. 5, Dryer No. 8 motor, approximately 18 inches off the ground.”

Attorneys from Steptoe and Johnson, a Columbus firm representing Dole in the case, filed a response dated Oct. 30 last year to formally contest the citations. The law firm didn’t respond to requests for comment from the News-Sun.

Dole contests “all aspects and elements of each and every citation and item(s) of the following citations issued on October 6, 2017, including, but not limited to, alleged inspection/violation dates, scope of inspection, applicability, recognized hazard, extend of alleged hazard, presence of violation, statements of conditions and violations, validity of alleged evidence of violations, classification, penalty, abatement, feasibility, necessity and abatement date,” the law firm’s letter says.

Dole has more than 700 employees at its processing plant in Springfield, which was built in 1998 and packages and distributes salad found in grocery stores across the country. The company recently completed a $9 million expansion to add three new packaging lines and one processing line.

An affiliate of Dole purchased a nearly $550,000, 28-acre property near its plant along Titus Road last spring. Local officials said the company needed the property in case of future expansion.

The OSHA case is unrelated to a separate incident in which Dole voluntarily recalled pre-packaged salads and closed the Springfield plant for four months in 2016 after a Food and Drug Administration and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention investigation allegedly linked the site to a suspected outbreak of listeria.