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Bacardi Bottling Corporation faces $192,000 fine after worker ‘crushed to death’

By Ben Bouckley+

12-Feb-2013
Last updated the 12-Feb-2013 at 16:52 GMT

Bacardi Bottling Corporation faces a fine of $192,000 after multiple OSHA citations for alleged safety violations, one of which led to a US young worker being crushed to death by a palletizer.

The US Labor Department’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) detailed these alleged violations in a February 8 letter sent to Bacardi Bottling.

Unless Bacardi Bottling contests them, the OSHA says it must pay the fine and take remedial measures by March 7.

In a release sent to BeverageDaily.com - which we will expand upon below - Bacardi said it disagreed with how the OSHA had characterized its actions, but said it had already "addressed or put in place plans to address all safety and health matters identified by the OSHA".

21-year-old temporary worker Lawrence Daquan Davis – recruited from nationwide agency Remedy Intelligent Staffing – was crushed by the machine at Bacardi’s Jacksonville, FL facility in August 2012.

He was cleaning glass from under the hoist of a palletizing machine when another employee restarted it; $140,000 of the fine leveled at Bacardi Bottling relates to Davis’ tragic death alone.

The OSHA – which has cited Bacardi Bottling with 12 alleged safety violations – said that the firm had not trained temporary workers on utilizing locks and tags (attached to machines to prevent their being switched on) to stop accidental startup.

‘Worker’s first day shouldn’t be his last on earth’

Worse still, the OSHA said, Bacardi Bottling had failed to ensure that its own workers utilized procedures to lock or ‘tag out’ machines.

Thus, the OSHA has issued the company with two willful citations for failing to develop, document and utilize lockout/tagout procedures, where willfulness involves either intentional knowing or voluntary disregard for legal requirement, or “plain indifference” to worker safety and health.

Dr. David Michaels, OSHA assistant secretary of labor, said: “A worker’s first day at work shouldn’t be his last on earth. Employers are responsible for ensuring the safe conditions of all their employees, including those who are temporary.”

Michaels added that the OSHA was seeing untrained workers (many of whom were temporary) killed soon after starting new jobs.

“This must stop. Employers must train all employees, including temporary workers, on the hazards specific to that workplace, before they start working. Had Bacardi done so, this tragic loss of life could have been prevented."

Falling bottles, fire hazards…

The OSHA also cited Bacardi Bottling a further nine times: for exposing workers to trips and fire hazards where fixed conveyors crossed aisle, obstruction of exit routes; exposing workers to falling bottles and debris from overhead conveyors; electric shock hazards, lack of machine guarding.

An inadequate number of lockout/tagout devices were available for workers to lockout machines such as palletizers from energy sources, the OSHA alleges, while energy control procedures were not reviewed by an authorized employee.

Machine and equipment servicing was allegedly conducted without proper training in energy isolation methods, while workers were not required to wear face shields and long sleeves when using 90lb/sq inch air guns, with the risk of exposure to airborne glass particles.

'We took immediate steps': Bacardi

In its statement reacting to the OSHA, Bacardi said it was "steadfast in its commitment to provide employees with a safe environment while adhering to the highest standards in procedures, policies and training", a commitment it said it had reaffirmed by working closely with the OSHA during its recent inspection of the Jacksonville site.

"Bacardi has already addressed or put in place plans that resolve all safety and health matters identified by OSHA," the company said, adding that it had worked with the agency during its inspection (a standard procedure following any workplace accident) and immediately took steps to correct noted safety concerns "rather than waiting until after the final report was issued".

Extending its condolences to Davis' family, Bacardi said it had also conducted additional staff training on lockout/tagout procedures, updated safety policies and procedures, and completed a thorough review of all equipment in order to prevent such an accident from happening again.

Stressing its work to ensure high employee safety standards, Bacardi said it was the only global spirits company operating in line with internationally recognized standards for quality (ISO 9001), the environment (ISO 14001) and health and safety (OHSAS 18001) for all production sites globally.

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