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Agriprocessors cited for 31 safety violations
Management at Agriprocessors has 15 days to formally respond to an accusation issued today by the Iowa Division of Labor Services that documents 31 new and repeat safety violations.
The state agency completed a follow-up safety inspection on July 8, according to a press release issued today. Based on that inspection, 31 citations were issued, including 21 that are considered serious. Six of the violations stemmed from ongoing safety concerns, previously cited by state inspectors, that management has not addressed to state specifications.
The kosher meatpacking plant — the largest in the nation — was cited most recently for health and safety violations in March. At that time the plant was accused by Iowa labor officials of 39 violations. Company management was able to cooperate with the state while making changes and modifications at the plant. As a result, fines related to those violations were reduced in May to roughly $43,000.
Some of the violations management is facing now, however, are the same ones they were cited for in March, according to Kerry Koonce, a spokeswoman for the Iowa Division of Labor.
“One of those is an uncovered hole in the [kill] floor that employees could accidentally walk into,” she said in a telephone interview. “Also, exit signage not being properly posted. There were also some relating to electrical fixtures that were supposed to be fixed, but were not fixed.”
Although the state agency cannot make the detailed list of new violations public before the company has opportunity to respond, Koonce said examples of some of the new violations would be failure to provide railings on raised worker platforms, improper or unsafe maintenance of fixed stairwells, improper storage of gas cyclinders, use of respirators in a manner contradictory with production standards, incorrectly placed temporary wiring, and missing or less than adequate safety guards on moving equipment.
Agriprocessors, according to Koonce, has several response options that can be done during the 15-day window.
“They can say that they disagree and that they want to contest it in court,” she said. “They can ask for what’s called an informal conference — meaning that they can come in and talk about the violations and talk about things they might be able to do to fix them. Of course, they can also just pay up, but that isn’t an option that’s typically chosen.”
On the unlikely event that the company chooses to ignore the state’s list of violations, the penalty would be a $101,000 fine.
“When you are discussing repeat violations, the fine is more substantial,” Koonce said. “The overall goal is to try and get a workplace to be safe. So, if you can go into negotiations and get the company to take some of that fine money and put it into upgrades at the facility so it is safe, you want to do that. Obviously, in the case, we have some issues that are repeats. But we will give them their chance and listen to what they say.”