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Feds fault Hormel on safety violations after worker loses arm

By Mike Hughlett

Star Tribune, Minneapolis

BARRON, WIS. — Federal workplace safety regulators cited a Hormel Foods subsidiary Monday for rare “willful” safety law violations in connection with an accident last summer that severed a turkey plant worker’s arm.

Shawn Redman, a 35-year-old veteran employee, was cleaning equipment on July 20 at a Jennie-O Turkey Store processing plant in Barron, Wis., when his arm became snared in a moving production line. The arm was reattached after he was flown to a Rochester hospital.

Jennie-O should not have allowed cleaning of any sort while the production line was running, said Rhonda Burke, a spokeswoman for the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). The agency has proposed fines of $318,000.

Austin-based Hormel can contest OSHA’s findings and penalties; the company said in a statement that it’s reviewing the citations. Jennie-O, which employs 1,200 at its Barron plant, is one of the nation’s largest turkey processors.

OSHA issued 11 citations to Jennie-O, seven of them deemed “serious” and four “willful.” OSHA issues willful violations only when it believes employers have demonstrated “intentional, knowing or voluntary disregard” for safety rules, or “plain indifference” to worker safety and health.

In a statement, Jennie-O’s human resources vice president, Pat Solheid, said the company is “committed to being a leader in our industry for employee safety. We have an extensive safety program designed to meet regulatory requirements, which includes ongoing employee training.”

Redman was cleaning in a room in which turkeys, shackled to a conveyor, are killed by carbon dioxide. OSHA cited Jennie-O for not cutting power to the line while Redman was cleaning, and for not adequately ensuring that the room was free of carbon dioxide while he worked.

Also, the agency said that Jennie-O didn’t have an attendant to oversee Redman when he entered and left the room. After the accident, Redman had to walk down a flight of 25 stairs and 200 feet across a production floor to flag down a co-worker, according to OSHA.