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Zwanenberg Food Group Hit With Millions In Fines Over Safety

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One of the world's biggest suppliers of processed foods has been hit with millions in fines over safety failings at a plant in Cincinnati.

Zwanenberg Group USA Inc. has agreed to pay $1.7 million in federal penalties and invest $1.9 million in improving the plant.

The fines come after several investigations by the Department of Labor's Occupation Safety and Health Administration.

The agreement resolves OSHA citations issued to Zwanenberg in September 2022 and April and December 2023, after investigations into the cause of injuries suffered by two temporary workers at the plant.

Inspectors determined the company exposed workers to hazards by allowing machinery to operate without required safety guards during production and not de-energizing equipment during sanitation operations.

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OSHA Regional Administrator Bill Donovan, said: "“By agreeing to make extensive safety improvements and work with OSHA and industry experts to address workplace hazards, Zwanenberg Food Group will be better equipped to ensure the safety and protect the lives of current employees and future workers at its Cincinnati production facility.

“Through increased safety measures and regular reporting, we will hold Zwanenberg leadership accountable for changing their corporate culture as they work with industry experts to develop and continually test safety measures and train employees to recognize hazards.”

As part of the settlement, Zwanenberg will introduce

  • An analysis by an independent third-party auditor of all equipment. 
  • Develop and re-write lockout/tagout procedures for all equipment.
  • Enhance machine guarding.
  • Train employees on the new machine safety procedures, including lockout/tagout.
  • Ensure each employee uses and applies their own HASP lock during third-shift sanitation.
  • Transition most of its workforce to permanent employees within six months.
  • Meet with OSHA at least quarterly to discuss safety and health issues.
  • Retain a third-party consultant to audit all personal protective equipment, hazardous communication and lockout/tagout programs. 
  • Continue the company’s recently adopted “Pre-Startup Safety Review”
  • Conduct an independent audit of its safety training programs. 
  • Implement a “Stop Work for Safety” program including awards and recognition.
  • Continue its “Near-Miss Reporting Program” and daily discussions of issues at production meetings.
  • Implement a learning management system for all employees and schedule mandatory monthly computer-based safety training.
  • Conduct on-board safety training for all new employees. 
  • Develop a corporate wide safety and health management system that includes input from management and workers and the creation of a safety committee.

OSHA Area Director Ken Montgomery in Cincinnati: “Zwanenberg Food Group has taken important steps to improve plant safety but the work of training new and existing employees on machine safety procedures to prevent injuries never ends.

“Employers are responsible for recognizing and responding to hazards immediately and protecting workers to ensure they end their shifts safely.”

Zwanenberg Food Group USA Inc. has 12 production facilities in the U.S., Netherlands and the United Kingdom.

Its product line includes cooked ham, chili, luncheon meat, soups, stew, corned beef hash and pastas marketed under the Vietti, Southgate, Halal and other private label brands.

The company employs about 175 workers at the Cincinnati facility

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