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Chicken plant cited for safety violations

Posted December 15, 2009

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— State inspectors on Tuesday fined a Robeson County chicken processing plant $73,325 for workplace safety violations that led to a fatal ammonia leak in June.

The state Department of Labor cited Mountaire Farms in Lumber Bridge for 22 safety violations. The company has 15 business days to appeal the findings.

A high-pressure ammonia line ruptured in the Mountaire plant on June 20, forcing up to 40 workers to evacuate the building, authorities said. Mechanic Clifton Swain, 49, of Fayetteville, died in the incident, and four other workers were injured.

Inspectors said refrigeration mechanics at the plant routinely ignored temperature and pressure limits, and they weren't properly trained on using and repairing some equipment in the plant.

Respirators used in emergencies at the plant were stored improperly and weren't tested to ensure they worked, according to inspectors. Also, Mountaire workers expected to respond to emergencies had inadequate training and ill-fitting respiratory equipment, and a shower in the plant for washing chemicals off workers didn't work.

The plant employs about 2,500 people.

Between 2005 and last June, state and federal regulators cited the plant for 19 workplace safety violations, including 15 in an inspection report dated April 21. Nine of those violations were labeled serious, and fines totaled $19,600.

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  • AtALost Dec 16, 2009

    "Inspectors said refrigeration mechanics at the plant routinely ignored temperature and pressure limits, and they weren't properly trained on using and repairing some equipment in the plant."

    This is what cheap labor gets you - ignorant employees who are a danger to themselves and others. Buying something cheap today is taking a short sighted view of the consequences tomorrow. Buy american or do without until companies realize we're serious.

  • djcgriffin Dec 16, 2009

    Would someone point me in the right direction as to where I can find out the statistics to which a couple of you refer?

    Thanks.

  • Rolling Along Dec 15, 2009

    Our company takes every legal method we have at our disposal to make sure we only hire legal people. But even doing that a few manage to slip through. Companies should be required to use any and all means as well as provide documentation that they have done it. Then the onus falls on the illegal alien, but way too many companies are more interested in profit margins than anything else.

  • gcmann Dec 15, 2009

    - Rev. RB aka Troll Magnet

    I agree somewhat, it's not always the companies fault in hiring illegal aliens (not undocumented workers, please use the correct terminology - criminal illegal aliens). The illegal aliens deserve some to bear some of the responsibility themselves. They know they are breaking the law by sneaking into this country and using forged documents.
    All companies should use e-verify. Simple, easy, and almost completely effective - a much higher accuracy rate than citizens audited by the IRS.
    americanworker.org

  • Adelinthe Dec 15, 2009

    Regarding hiring of undocumented workers, it's not always the company's fault.

    Employers are required to have on file a filled out I-9 for each and every employee which requires a copy of a passport, or a driver's license and social security card.

    Then the Federal government doesn't go far enough to say the IDs required need to be checked for legality online which is a free resource available from the government.

    That means anyone with a false ID can get a job.

    Until the Feds close that loophole, it will continue, so it's not always the company's fault; sometimes it's the Fed's fault, and of course, those with fake IDs are always at fault and should spend time in prison rather than being deported.

    God bless.

    RB

  • Jeremiah Dec 15, 2009

    Made me think of Hamlet.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hamlet_chicken_processing_plant_fire

  • gcmann Dec 15, 2009

    hollylama -

    You're almost correct. These meat processing plants employ in the neighborhood of 60% illegal aliens (sorry undocumented workers is an incorrect terminology to make criminals sound not so criminal).
    Since the mass influx of illegal aliens (10 - 12 years) the average wage at these plants have fallen over fifty percent. Has anyone seen a 50 % drop in the price of their products ?
    Robeson County is one of the poorest (if not the poorest) county in NC. In such an economically distressed area, shouldn't all jobs go to Americans ?

  • makeitright Dec 15, 2009

    Constant violations should mean close the place. Fine the Owners tons and not reopen until things are fixed and force them to pay their workers while closed... That should light a fired under them.

  • hollylama Dec 15, 2009

    "The plant employs 2500 people"...about 30% are probably undocumented workers. Recently saw a story about Smithfield's and how they employ undocumented workers and then work with immigration officials to have the workers removed after about 2-3 weeks.