OSHA fines Tyson Foods for safety violations at Hutchinson plant

Tyson Foods has been cited by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration for four workplace safety violations at its Hutchinson plant after a worker’s hand was severed by an unguarded conveyor belt.

OSHA has proposed fines of $147,000.

“Removing guards and failing to train workers in proper lockout procedures is inexcusable,” Judy Freeman, OSHA’s area director in Wichita, said in a prepared statement. “Tyson Foods failed to ensure safety procedures, demonstrating a lack of commitment to workplace safety and health and resulting in a tragic injury.”

OSHA launched an investigation and inspection upon learning of the amputation, which occurred June 17 when four workers were cleaning conveyor equipment at the end of their shift. Guarding on the conveyor was removed, exposing workers to rotating parts.

A worker’s frock and the employee’s arm were then pulled into the moving gears of a conveyor that had not been locked out to prevent unintentional operation, according to OSHA. Two willful violations involve failing to train workers on lockout/tagout procedures and to lock out equipment to prevent the unintentional operation of equipment and exposure to amputation hazards. A willful violation is one committed with intentional, knowing or voluntary disregard for the law’s requirement or with plain indifference to employee safety and health.

One serious violation involves fall hazards when workers ascend the upper-platform work area in two separate plant locations, according to OSHA. The company failed to provide fixed stairs to reach the work areas. An OSHA violation is serious if death or serious physical harm could result from a hazard an employer knew or should have known existed.

The citations against Tyson can be viewed at

Tyson Foods issued a statement through spokesman Worth Sparkman in response to the OSHA investigation.

“Workplace safety is very important to everyone at our company,” the e-mail statement said. “We expect our employees to perform to the highest safety and health standards across Tyson Foods operations at all times. Our efforts include safety policies and training, and the involvement of workers in our safety committees. We’re reviewing the citations and will work cooperatively with OSHA to resolve these concerns.”

Tyson has been placed in OSHA’s Severe Violator Enforcement Program, which mandates targeted follow-up inspections to ensure compliance with the law. The program focuses on employers that endanger workers by committing willful, repeat or failure-to-abate violations. Under the program, OSHA may inspect any of the employer’s facilities if it has reasonable grounds to believe there are similar violations.

Tyson’s Hutchinson plant has been inspected by OSHA five times in the past 10 years, resulting in seven violations.