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Secretary of Labor Thomas E. Perez
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News Release

OSHA News Release: [06/18/2012]
Contact Name: Ted Fitzgerald
Phone Number: (617) 565-2075
Release Number: 12-1159-BOS

US Labor Department’s OSHA cites Tribe Mediterranean Foods for safety violations following death of a worker in Taunton, Mass.

Employees lacked necessary training to prevent ‘needless and avoidable loss of life’

BRAINTREE, Mass. — The U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration has cited Tribe Mediterranean Foods, a subsidiary of Nestle SA that manufactures Tribe brand hummus products, for 18 alleged violations of workplace safety standards following the death of a worker at its Taunton production plant. OSHA's South Boston Area Office opened an inspection on Dec. 16, 2011, after a contract employee who was cleaning and sanitizing a machine used in the hummus manufacturing process was caught, pulled into the machine and crushed to death between two rotating augers.

OSHA's investigation found that Tribe Mediterranean Foods had not trained the deceased worker and six other workers who cleaned plant machinery on hazardous energy control or "lockout/tagout" procedures. These are the procedures employers must put into effect and train workers to follow to shut down machines and lock out their power sources before cleaning or performing maintenance on them. The purpose of lockout/tagout procedures is to ensure that the machines are not operating, and cannot unexpectedly activate and harm workers. OSHA requires that employers train workers so that they understand the purpose of the energy control procedures, and have the knowledge and skills required to safely utilize them.

"The employer knew it needed to train these workers so they could protect themselves against just this type of hazard but failed to do so. The result was a needless and avoidable loss of life," said Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health Dr. David Michaels. "In this case, Tribe Mediterranean Foods' knowledge and continuous disregard for an obvious and deadly hazard was so pronounced that we are issuing seven willful citations for lack of training, one for each untrained worker exposed to the hazard."

When there is a particularly egregious lack of compliance and exposure to hazards, OSHA can issue citations on a per-instance basis, in this case, representing one willful violation for each untrained employee exposed to a hazard.

OSHA has issued Tribe Mediterranean Foods citations for two additional willful violations, one for failing to adequately train maintenance workers to recognize hazardous energy sources, and one for failing to develop and utilize lockout/tagout procedures. 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.

Citations for three repeat violations have been issued for failing to conduct periodic inspections of the energy control procedures, inadequate guarding of rotating blades on blending tanks, and an exposed chain and sprocket on a conveyor. A repeat violation can be cited when an employer previously has been cited for the same or a similar violation of a standard, regulation, rule or order at any facility in federal enforcement states within the last five years. OSHA cited Tribe Mediterranean Foods, doing business as FoodTech International Inc., in October 2009, for similar hazards at its New Haven, Conn., plant.

Finally, Tribe Mediterranean Foods has been issued citations covering six serious violations for electrical, slipping, fall, pallet jack and additional machine guarding hazards. A serious violation occurs when there is substantial probability that death or serious physical harm could result from a hazard about which the employer knew or should have known.

The citations can be viewed at http://www.osha.gov/ooc/citations/TribeMediterraneanFoodsIncorporated_315145953_0612_12.pdf.

Tribe Mediterranean Foods, which faces a total of $702,300 in proposed fines, has 15 business days from receipt of its citations and proposed penalties to comply, meet with OSHA or contest the findings before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.

Due to the willful and repeat violations and the nature of the hazards, OSHA has placed Tribe Mediterranean Foods in its Severe Violator Enforcement Program, which mandates targeted follow-up inspections to ensure compliance with the law. The program focuses on recalcitrant employers that endanger workers by committing certain willful, repeat or failure-to-abate violations. For more information on the program, visit http://s.dol.gov/J3.

Tribe Mediterranean Foods is a subsidiary of Tivall 1993 LTD, which is owned by Osem Investments Limited, a subsidiary of Nestle SA. The Osem Group of companies produces and distributes certified-kosher food products in Israel, Europe and the United States. In addition to Osem and Migdanot Habayit products, the company imports, markets and distributes throughout the United States products from Wissotzki, Matzot Rishon, Matzot Karmel, Einat, Couscous Maison, Milos, Progress, Tempo, Beit Hashita, Beigel & Beigel, Manamim, Creative and Menora Candles.

The workers' compensation carrier insuring Tribe Mediterranean Foods through parent company OSEM Foods is Liberty Mutual Insurance Co.

Detailed information on hazardous energy control, including an interactive training program, is available at http://www.osha.gov/SLTC/controlhazardousenergy/index.html.

To ask questions, obtain compliance assistance, file a complaint, or report workplace hospitalizations, fatalities or situations posing imminent danger to workers, the public should call OSHA's toll-free hotline at 800-321-OSHA (6742) or the agency's Braintree Area Office at 617-565-6924.

Under the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970, employers are responsible for providing safe and healthful workplaces for their employees. OSHA's role is to ensure these conditions for America's working men and women by setting and enforcing standards, and providing training, education and assistance. For more information, visit http://www.osha.gov.