OSHA: Omega Protein fatality 'could have been avoided'

MOSS POINT, MS (WLOX) - A federal investigation into a fatal accident at Omega Protein in Moss Point reveals the accident could have been avoided.

The U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration released its findings Monday, citing 25 safety and health violations. That's based on an April inspection of the company's processing plant which took place after a worker was caught in a rotating screw conveyor.

Christopher Hebert, 24, had worked at the plant for three years.
"This terrible incident could have been avoided if the employer had followed OSHA's standards for energy control procedures," said Clyde Payne, the agency's area director in Jackson. "It is the employer's responsibility to make sure that employees are aware of and follow energy control procedures for their protection when working on any machinery."
Twenty-one serious violations involve failing to have employees affix personal lockout devices to a group lockout device, develop a written respirator protection program, develop and document procedures for controlling hazardous energy, obtain audiograms annually, provide training for forklift operators, conduct annual noise training, properly secure compressed gas cylinders, and provide a suitable facility for quick eye and body drenching or flushing.

OSHA also identified fall and electrical hazards; a lack of equipment guarding on rotating drums, fan blades and horizontal rotating shafts; and a lack of guarding on the belts and pulleys of the grinding screw and the hopper screw conveyor.

A serious violation occurs when there is substantial probability that death or serious physical harm could result from a hazard about which the employer knew or should have known.
Citations have been issued for four other-than-serious violations that include failing to provide signage for the exit door in the mechanic shop, caution signage for a low overhead hazard, strain relief for a fan's flexible cord and a hazard warning label on ethylene glycol.

An other-than-serious violation is one that has a direct relationship to job safety and health, but probably would not cause death or serious physical harm.
Proposed penalties for the serious violations total $79,200.

Omega Protein now has 15 business days to respond to the citations and proposed penalties.

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