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OSHA Cites Publix Following Worker Mishap

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — The U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration has cited Publix Super Markets for 16 safety and health violations at a distribution facility here after receiving a complaint in September that a worker's hand was amputated while cleaning conveyor equipment.

Proposed penalties total $182,000. OSHA also placed Publix in its Severe Violator Enforcement Program, which mandates targeted follow-up inspections to ensure compliance with the law.

One willful violation with a $70,000 penalty was cited for failing to utilize procedures for the control of potentially hazardous energy when employees service or clean equipment. A willful violation is one committed with intentional knowing or voluntary disregard for the law's requirements, or with plain indifference to worker safety and health, OSHA said.

The agency further proposed $66,000 in fines for repeat violations including failing to develop, document and utilize lockout/tagout procedures and not conducting an annual inspection of the energy control procedures. Publix’s Dacula, Ga. facility was cited for the same violations in 2008.

"Publix is well aware of the hazards the cleaning crew was exposed to, yet took no steps to safeguard employees by controlling the conveyor equipment's energy source,” Brian Sturtecky, OSHA's area director, said in a statement. "Exposing workers to amputation hazards is unacceptable, and corrective action must be taken immediately.”

Additional fines were proposed for six “serious” and six “other-than-serious” violations, OSHA added. Publix, Lakeland, Fla., has 15 days to respond to the charges.

A spokesman for Publix, Dwaine Stephens, told SN Thursday that the company plans to appeal the citations. “We disagree with the citations issued to our Jacksonville Fresh Foods facility, we disagree with the opinions expressed by OSHA's Jacksonville Area Director, and we plan to appeal the citations,” Stephens said. “In the meantime, we are actively working on identifying and addressing any issues that may have contributed to this unfortunate incident and are constantly developing ways to improve our safety performance.”

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