North Carolina Plant Worker Death Had History of Safety Violations

Posted on Jun 28, 2009

In the wake of the Slim Jim meat factory explosion earlier this month, a second worker death at the Mountaire Farms plant in Lumber Bridge, North Carolina has many in the state concerned about the safety of such plants.

Last week, a maintenance employee of the company died from ammonia inhalation while on the job. This workplace accident was caused by a ruptured refrigerator line that started an ammonia leak. However, many say that this on-the-job accident was not so much as accident as the result of a number of ongoing safety violations by the plant that put workers in danger of on-the-job injuries and fatalities every day.

Reports say that 47-year-old Clifton Swain of Fayetteville, North Carolina, was replacing an inner sleeve on a votator - a piece of equipment used to process meat - when the line ruptured. Three other workers were injured in the leak, two of which are said to have suffered severe burns.

Just this past April, safety inspectors fined the meat plant nearly $20,000 for 15 different workplace violations. Nine of the violations were considered serious matters by the Labor Department, some of which included noise control and sanitation problems.

Among those investigating the worker death is the United States Chemical Safety Board, who say they have not collected enough information to formally address the matter at this point. The North Carolina poultry plant has already re-opened and is conducting its own investigation of what caused this serious accident.

"We have been working closely with OSHA to respond to the issues noted in the 2009 report," the company told the Associated Press. "Our policy is to cooperate with regulators and work in conjunction with them to provide the safest workplace possible for our employees."

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