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Published December 10, 2011, 09:53 AM

Cargill cited for 23 serious safety violations at Milwaukee slaughterhouse

Minnetonka, Minn.-based Cargill is one of the nation's largest beef processors. Federal workplace regulators this week cited Cargill Inc.'s Milwaukee beef slaughterhouse for 23 serious safety violations, the most violations the agribusiness giant has received at any of its U.S. plants in at least a decade.

By: Mike Hughlett, Star Tribune (Minneapolis) / MCT

MINNEAPOLIS

Federal workplace regulators this week cited Cargill Inc.'s Milwaukee beef slaughterhouse for 23 serious safety violations, the most violations the agribusiness giant has received at any of its U.S. plants in at least a decade.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration is proposing fines of $146,400 to settle the citations, which involve workplace safety procedures and fall-protection standards.

Minnetonka, Minn.-based Cargill is one of the nation's largest beef processors, and its Milwaukee operation primarily slaughters dairy cows that are past their useful life for milk production. The OSHA citations stem from a routine, unscheduled inspection, not an accident or an injury.

Cargill will "address the alleged violations through the established U.S. government process, and we are hopeful that a mutually agreeable resolution can be reached," company spokesman Mike Martin said in an e-mail. Negotiated settlements over OSHA citations often result in lower fines.

According to OSHA, the violations include failing to develop operating procedures for the start-up of ammonia refrigeration systems, failing to conduct equipment inspections and testing at regular intervals, and failing to develop and implement procedures to maintain process equipment.

"Failing to follow process safety management procedures when using hazardous chemicals such as ammonia can put workers in serious dangers," OSHA area director George Yoskas said in a press release.

Martin said the citations primarily relate to the plant's refrigeration system; ammonia is a standard industry refrigerant. He said the alleged violations center on the documentation of safety processes, and have no bearing on food safety.

A serious workplace safety violation occurs when an employer knew or should have known about a hazard that has the "substantial probability" of causing death or physical harm.

Cargill received 19 citations in 2005 after an accident at an animal feed plant in Washington state. The company also received 15 citations after a routine safety inspection in 2003 at a North Carolina feed plant.

Distributed by MCT Information Services

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