The N.C. Department of Labor has issued 17 violations against the Smithfield Packing Company and fined them just over $250,000 following a fatality at the company’s Clinton facility earlier this year.
On Feb. 18, Smithfield employee Brandon Christopher Taylor, 26, of High House Road, died while on his shift at the processing plant, located at 424 E. Railroad St. in Clinton. As a result, the Labor Department immediately began occupational safety and health inspections which led to the levied violations and fine.
According to reports from the Clinton Police Department, Taylor was filling a tanker with liquid sludge when he was found unresponsive around 12:30 a.m. on top of a truck with his head in a tanker. It is believed that he slipped, fell and then was asphyxiated by fumes.
As a result of the investigation, the Labor Department cited Smithfield Packing this week for three alleged willful serious violations, 11 alleged serious violations and three alleged non-serious violations of the Occupational Safety and Health Act of North Carolina with a total penalty of $251,250, according to Neal O’Briant, public information officer for the N.C. Department of Labor.
“All of us at Smithfield Packing were terribly saddened by the tragic death of our employee, Brandon Christopher Taylor, last February,” said Jeff Gough, senior vice president of Human Resources and Logistics at Smithfield Tuesday.
“Since this tragedy, we have reviewed our safety and operations procedures with all of our Clinton plant employees to re-enforce our safe operations policies at all times. When it comes to workplace safety, our employees are among the most committed and vigilant in the industry. We appreciate their hard work and are continuing our company-wide efforts to make our facilities as safe as possible.”
Civil penalties for OSH violations are included in the Occupational Safety and Health Act of North Carolina in the General Statutes. The maximum penalty for each willful violation is $70,000 and for each serious or non-serious violation $7,000. The General Statutes say the Labor Department has to take into consideration various factors such as the size of the business, the good faith and cooperation of the employer and the history of previous violations.
“The penalties are in no way designed to make up for loss of life,” O’Briant said in a release Tuesday. “By law, the civil money penalties collected by the N.C. Department of Labor are not the receipts of the department, but rather must be remitted to the Civil Penalty and Forfeiture Fund, which then distributes the monies to the public school systems.”
Fines are issued to penalize the offending employer but also to get the attention of other employers with similar work environments, he noted.
O’Briant added that the company will have 15 working days to request an informal conference with the Labor Department to file a notice of contest with the Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission of North Carolina (an independent board appointed by the governor to hear appeals of OSHA citations), or to pay the penalty.
To reach Doug Clark call 910-592-8137 ext. 123 or email to email@example.com.