WASHINGTON COURT HOUSE, Ohio – A federal investigation into how a 35-year-old worker suffered severe leg burns, degloving of their foot and other injuries after falling into corrosive chemicals in May 2023 has found that an Ohio meat processing plant’s safety failures exposed employees to hazardous conditions.
The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration determined the employee at Sugar Creek Packing Co. was changing bearings on a fan motor when they fell into a tree hangar machine used to sanitize and clean hanging meat racks at the company’s Washington Court House plant.
OSHA found Sugar Creek lacked required energy control procedures, commonly known as lockout/tagout. The company also failed to make sure employees wore chemically resistant clothing and were trained to perform servicing and maintenance activities on the plant’s tree wash, belly press and drench cabinet. Such procedures and training would have protected workers from contact with hazardous chemicals and machine parts.
The company has a history of workplace injuries and violating federal safety regulations dating back to 2014. OSHA cited Sugar Creek Packing in 2019 and 2022 for similar hazards found in the May 2023 inspection at its facilities in Washington Court House and in Fairfield.
“Despite multiple employee injuries and repeated OSHA citations, Sugar Creek Packing Co. continues to ignore federal regulations and industry-recognized safety requirements to protect employees from harm, including amputation and other hazards,” said OSHA Area Director Ken Montgomery in Cincinnati. “The company’s recent workplace safety failures allowed an employee to suffer painful and preventable injuries. Sugar Creek must end its indifference toward worker safety immediately before another tragedy occurs.”
The agency cited the company for two repeat and six serious violations and one other-than-serious violation. OSHA has assessed Sugar Creek with $277,904 in proposed penalties.
Specifically, OSHA inspectors found the Washington Court House plant failed to do the following:
- Protect employees from falling into dangerous equipment.
- Provide chemical-resistant personal protective equipment and eye protection and require its use.
- Require that a hazard assessment be performed before repairing the machine.
- Follow required lockout procedures and periodically review them for effectiveness.
- Train employees on protective measures and avoiding chemical hazards.
- Properly label chemical containers and provide an eye-drenching station.
Founded in 1966, Sugar Creek processes meat products for some of the largest and best-known food brands in the U.S. and abroad. The company employs more than 2,000 people at six manufacturing facilities in Blue Ash, Dayton, Fairfield and Hamilton, Ohio; Cambridge City, Indiana; and Frontenac, Kansas.
The Blue Ash-based company has requested an informal conference with OSHA’s area director to discuss the citations and abatement procedures. The company may still choose to contest the findings before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.