Louisiana-based Diversified Foods fined $124k by OHSA after evacuation

Posted on 19 Apr 2016 by Tim Brown

The US Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has cited Louisiana food manufacturing company Diversified Food and Seasonings for 25 serious violations for exposing workers to hazardous chemicals, electrical dangers and fall hazards.

OSHA discovered the violations after an inspection of the Madisonville facility operated by Diversified Foods and Seasonings. The agency inspected the plant after an ammonia leak on 16 October, 2015, resulted in at least one worker being taken to hospital as a precaution.

Hazardous materials teams and Fire Department officials attended the scene on 16 October and both the Diversified Foods and Seasonings and neighboring Budweiser facilities were evacuated.

“Worker safety and health must be an absolute priority for every employer,” said Jason D. Coffey, OSHA’s acting area director in Baton Rouge. “No worker should go to work not knowing which of the many hazards may injure them on any given day. That is simply unacceptable.”

Following the inspection, the Diversified Foods and Seasonings received citations which include multiple violations of OSHA’s process safety management regulations; exposing workers to hazardous chemicals, respiratory protection, electrical hazards, and the failure to provide fall protection to employees.

Proposed penalties for the employer total $124,000.

A link to the citations, which were announced on April 8, is available here: http://www.osha.gov/ooc/citations/DiversifiedFoodsandSeasoningsLLC_1099140.pdf

Headquartered in Mandeville, Diversified Food and Seasonings has three manufacturing facilities in Theodore, Madisonville and in Nebraska in Nebraska City. The company has about 270 employees, with 60 workers in Madisonville.

The food manufacturer’s primary retail product is Chef’s Creations and the company also produces soups, sauces and bakery goods.

Food manufacturing has higher injury, death rates

Food industry workers have a 60% higher rate of occupational injury or illness than workers in other industries, according to a 2015 study from Emory University.

Researchers examined data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics from 2008 to 2010 and analyzed the food industry areas of food production, processing, distribution, storage and retail. During that period, food jobs made up about 15% of US private-industry jobs.

Severe injuries that required time off work were “more than twice as frequent” among food workers, and the risk of occupational death was 9.5 times higher than in non-food jobs, according to the report.

Researchers found that injuries from slips, trips and falls were highest in food processing, storage and retail, possibly because of high use of refrigeration. Risk for occupational illness, injury and death was high in all food industry areas except for food service.