OSHA targets New England seafood processors for additional inspections

Channel Fish Processing.

The U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) will begin conducting random comprehensive safety inspections of New England seafood processors and wholesaler operations as part of a local emphasis program designed to crack down on hazardous conditions and reduce injuries and fatalities.

OHSA, the federal government's workplace safety regulator, currently has no inspection targeting system that covers the seafood industry, despite the fact that New England seafood processors have high injury and illness rates – 2.5 times higher than the industry average. Since 2016, OSHA has documented two fatalities and four finger amputations at New England seafood-processing facilities.

The first fatality occurred in 2019 at Sea Watch International in New Bedford, Massachusetts, when a maintenance employee was strangled to death after his jacket got caught in a piece of machinery. OSHA determined the company had not implemented lockout procedures prior to the employee approaching the equipment. The second incident took place that same year at Channel Fish Processing in Braintree, Massachusetts. The owner of a cleaning company was unable to exit the spiral freezer before the cleaning cycle began. His body was found the next day. In that case, OSHA determined the facility had not maintained the exit route doors needed to escape.

Enforcement activity also has uncovered “a significant number of high severity hazards” over the last several years. From fiscal 2016 to 2022, OSHA conducted 50 inspections in Region 1, an area that covers all of New England, resulting in 82 serious citations, five repeat citations, and 13 other-than-serious recordkeeping violations. The most common issues were failure to comply with lockout or tag-out standards and inadequate or missing machine guarding. Fall hazards and potential exposure to ammonia and cooling systems are recurring issues.

OSHA said it is also concerned by the use of temporary labor and outside contractors for hazardous activities.

To improve conditions, OSHA is targeting New England seafood processors and wholesalers for comprehensive safety inspections. As part of a local emphasis program, the OSHA area director will create a master list of establishments that have not been inspected in the past year, and then randomly select businesses from that list to be inspected. Any unprogrammed inspections will automatically be upgraded to comprehensive safety inspections.

The initiative will also include raising awareness of common safety and health hazards.

The local emphasis program will expire in five years unless renewed by the agency.

Courtesy of Shutterstock / Wangkun Jia


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