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OSHA Cites Poultry Processor for Teen's Death

The contract worker was sanitizing a machine.

Kristen Kazarian

January 18, 2024

2 Min Read
OSHA cites poultry processor for teen death.
A sanitization worker cleans equipment in a meat processing facility.Image courtesy of DuxX / iStock via Getty Images

For the second time in just over two years, the Mar-Jac poultry processing plant in Hattiesburg, MS, disregarded safety standards that led to a worker's death. In July 2023, a 16-year-old sanitation worker was pulled into a machine, federal safety investigators found.

On July 14, 2023, a contract worker employed by Onin Staffing was performing a deep clean of the deboning area at the Mar-Jac Poultry MS plant.

OSHA found that while he was 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 prior to and during the fatal incident — lockout/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 proposed $212,646 in penalties, an amount set by federal statute. The agency cited Mar-Jac Poultry with 14 serious and three other-than-serious violations after finding the company 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 used lockout/tagout devices on machinery when performing cleaning.

  • Ensure an energy control procedure included specific steps for blocking and securing portions of the machinery while workers performed cleaning. 

  • Failed to ensure the machinery retained guarding to prevent employees from entering danger zones while machinery was in operation. 

  • Cover open holes in 480-volt electrical cabinets, exposing workers to electrical hazards. 

  • Prevent workers from using portable ladders incorrectly to gain access to elevated work surfaces, exposing workers to fall hazards.  

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 the worker was pulled in, pinning his 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 addition to OSHA's investigation, the department's Wage and Hour Division has an open child labor investigation which is pending.

About the Author(s)

Kristen Kazarian

Managing Editor

Kristen Kazarian has been a writer and editor for more than three decades. She has worked at several consumer magazines and B2B publications in the fields of food and beverage, packaging, processing, women's interest, local news, health and nutrition, fashion and beauty, automotive, and computers.

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