OSHA Cites Pet Food Maker for $95K

Toni Sutton-Deangelico

Miami, FL (WorkersCompensation.com) – A premium pet food manufacturer was stunned last week when it was fined by OSHA for more than $95,000 after being cited for exposing employees to fall, amputation, and other safety hazards at its facility in Miami.

According to the Citation and Notification of Penalty obtained by WorkersCompensation.com, inspectors made a surprise inspection to the facility at 3198 NW 125th Street. It resulted in The Higgins Group, which runs Higgins Premium Pet Foods being penalized for 17 serious violations.

“They showed up with four inspectors for the first inspection. Then they came back four more times,” said Higgins general manager, Andres Perea, in a statement. “We’ve never had a death, never had an amputation. In the last five years, we’ve had five injuries. The worst was a sprained knee.”

It’s been 20 years since OSHA has inspected Higgins before the fall investigation, because workplace inspections don’t happen as often as those in other facilities such as supermarkets or restaurants. The agency only tends to pop up when there’s a complaint or accident history with the company or industry. According to an spokesperson, the two inspections that Higgins had stemmed from complaints. One was from an employee, and the other had been a referral from another agency.

Court records obtained by WorkersCompensation.com show some of the serious violations the pet food company was cited for were due to the following:

  • The employer failed to produce a work environment that was free from recognized hazards that were causing or likely to cause physical harm or death to employees when it came to their storage racks.
  • The employer failed to develop and implement a Hazardous Energy Control Program for set-up cleaning and maintenance of pet food manufacturing machines; thereby, exposing their machine operators as well as the machine cleaning employees and machine mechanics to thermal, pinch, cut, nip and amputation hazards.
  • The employer had exposed it workers to nip, cut, and pitch point hazards from pulleys and belts that were unguarded and were not protected by one or more methods of primary machine guarding on a silo system.
  • The employer failed to receive written approval from an actual forklift manufacturer before allowing the operation of a forklift in which modifications and additions affected the capacity and safety operations of the vehicle while in use by an employee.

In a press release, OSHA’s Fort Lauderdale Area Director Condell Eastmond said, “employers must assess their workplace for potential safety and health hazards, and are encouraged to contact the local OSHA office for assistance with establishing and improving safety and health programs.”

The Higgins Group has 15 business days from receipt of the violations to either comply, make a request for an informal conference with OSHA’s area director, or challenge the findings before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.

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