Since 2020, Mar-Jac Poultry’s facility in Hattiesburg, Mississippi, has been the site of multiple deaths, including one 16-year-old boy in July 2023.
The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration cited the company in 2020 and again in 2021 for four safety violations in three separate incidents, prompting penalties totaling $52,355.
Now, OSHA has cited Mar-Jac Poultry with 14 serious and three other-than-serious violations after investigations surrounding the death of Duvan Tomas Perez, a teenage Guatemalan immigrant, on July 14, 2023.
In July, Onin Staffing LLC performed a deep clean of the deboning area at the Mar-Jac Poultry MS plant. While sanitizing the still-energized machine, the teen was caught in the rotating shaft and sprockets and pulled in, sustaining fatal injuries.
Investigators found that despite a manager’s supervision in and around the area before and during the deadly incident, lockout and tagout procedures were not utilized to disconnect power to the machine, and a lockout/tagout device was not used to prevent the machine from unintentionally starting during the cleaning.
“Mar-Jac Poultry is aware of how dangerous the machinery they use can be when safety standards are not in place to prevent serious injury and death. The company’s inaction has directly led to this terrible tragedy, which has left so many to mourn this child’s preventable death,” said OSHA Regional Administrator Kurt Petermeyer in Atlanta.
OSHA found that Mar-Jac Poultry failed to:
- Ensure energy control procedures were used to prevent the unexpected start-up of machines while employees performed sanitation, exposing workers to caught-in hazards.
- Ensure employees use lockout/tagout devices on machinery when performing cleaning.
- Ensure an energy control procedure includes specific steps for blocking and securing portions of the machinery while workers perform cleaning.
- Failed to ensure the machinery retained guarding to prevent employees from entering danger zones while the machinery was operating.
- Cover open holes in 480-volt electrical cabinets, exposing workers to electrical hazards.
- Prevent workers from using portable ladders incorrectly to access elevated work surfaces, exposing workers to fall hazards.
According to a news release, OSHA has proposed $212,246 in penalties.
The agency previously cited Mar-Jac Poultry after a May 31, 2021, incident in which an employee’s shirt sleeve was caught in a machine, and they were pulled in, pinning their body against the support and the machine’s carousel, resulting in fatal injuries.
“Following the fatal incident in May 2021 Mar-Jac Poultry should have enforced strict safety standards in its facility,” Petermeyer added. “Only about two years later, nothing has changed, and the company continues to treat employee safety as an afterthought, putting its workers at risk. No worker should be placed in a preventable, dangerous situation, let alone a child.”
In 2020, two other men were killed in separate incidences six months apart, according to news sources.
In addition to OSHA’s investigation, the department’s Wage and Hour Division has an open child labor investigation, which is currently pending.
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