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The U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration has cited VPP Group LLC with $369,500 in proposed penalties for 38 alleged serious, willful, and other-than-serious safety and health violations at the company's meat packing facility in Norwalk, Wis.
As a result of two inspections earlier this year, OSHA has issued four alleged willful citations with proposed penalties of $280,000 for failing to perform hearing tests on employees exposed to extremely high noise levels, and failure to record more than 125 injuries that occurred from 2007 through 2009 in the required OSHA 300 injury log. A willful violation is one committed with intentional, knowing or voluntary disregard for the law's requirement, or plain indifference to employee safety and health.
"The company's disregard for OSHA's injury and illness recordkeeping requirements could be seen as an attempt to hide poor health and safety practices," said OSHA area director Kim Stille in Madison, Wis. "Indifference to safe practices and OSHA regulations is inviting tragedy into the lives of their workers."
Twenty serious citations with proposed penalties of $75,500 have also been issued. Some of these alleged serious violations include the company's failure to provide proper fall protection and hand rails; failure to provide hazardous energy control and fork lift training; lack of eye wash stations; improper hazardous chemical storage; overexposure to high noise levels; lack of proper personal protective equipment; and lack of required worker protection against blood borne pathogens. An OSHA violation is serious if death or serious physical harm can result from a hazard an employer knew or should have known exists.
Additionally, OSHA has issued $14,000 in proposed fines for 14 other-than-serious violations involving failure to record injury/illness reports that occurred since 2007. Other-than-serious citations are given when the violation would not directly cause a death or serious physical harm, but would affect the safety and health of employees.
VPP Group LLC, previously known as Valley Pride Pack Inc., is a meat processing plant. It primarily provides beef and other meat products to fast-food companies and businesses that supply beef to school lunch programs. Since 1996, there have been nine inspections and 24 citations issued to the company. One inspection, in 2009, was initiated after a worker was electrocuted.
The company has 15 business days from receipt of its citations and penalties to comply, request an informal conference with OSHA's area director or contest the findings before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.