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Three Workers Suffer Amputations at Food Processing Plant

A leading supplier of frozen specialty foods is facing more than $172,000 in fines after two workers at its Salina facility suffered amputations in separate incidents and a third suffered lacerations and burns.

The U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration cited Schwan's Global Supply Chain Inc. for three repeated, four serious, and one other-than-serious safety violations on February 9. Agency inspectors found Schwan's exposed workers to amputation and other serious hazards.

The company is a subsidiary of The Schwan Food Co., a multibillion-dollar private company that sells popular frozen food brands in North America, including Red Baron, Tony's, and Freschetta frozen pizza, and Mrs. Smith's desserts.

"Three women's lives were dramatically altered because their employer failed to protect them from hazardous operating machinery parts," said Judy Freeman, OSHA area director in Wichita. "Each year, thousands of workers like these suffer amputation and other injuries that are preventable when basic safety guards are in place and proper procedures are followed. Schwan's needs to protect their workers, and they need to do it now."

The inspections that resulted in the citations found:

August 11, 2015: A 55-year-old worker was picking up pizza crumbs and crust that had collected around the oven when her work glove was caught in the unguarded conveyor chain and sprocket drive assembly. Surgeons had to amputate her right hand. She was unable to work for 55 days.
    
September 30, 2015: A 49-year-old employee reached into the area of the conveyor to clear a jam of pizza pans. She sustained a laceration, fractures and burns to the palm of left hand. Investigators determined safety guards were not installed on operating parts between the top and bottom conveyors. The machine should have been prevented from operating while unjamming the pizza pans. She was unable to work for 46 days following the injury.
    
October 23, 2015: A 55-year-old employee was walking under a conveyor in the "new bakery" area, when she reached up to get her balance. As she attempted to stand, her hand inadvertently contacted an unguarded chain and sprocket on the underneath side of a conveyor. As a result, the employee's middle finger on her left hand was de-gloved and amputated.

During its inspections, the agency also found other safety hazards. These included workers with personal protective equipment that did not properly fit, storage of oxygen cylinders near highly combustible material, and had exit routes that did not meet height and width requirements.

The Schwan Food Co. has over 13,000 employees with 1300 of them at the Salina processing facility. Based in Minnesota, the company sells frozen foods through grocery stores, supermarkets, and the food-service industry.

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.

To ask questions, obtain compliance assistance, file a complaint, or report amputations, eye loss, workplace hospitalizations, fatalities, or situations posing imminent danger to workers, the public should call OSHA's toll-free hotline at 800-321-6742.

Under the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970, employers are responsible for providing safe and healthful workplaces for their employees. OSHA's role is to ensure these conditions for America's working men and women by setting and enforcing standards, and providing training, education and assistance. For more information, visit www.osha.gov.

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