Meat processing giant JBS USA was issued five subpoenas and fines totaling US$174,566 last month when a worker at Greeley’s beef factory was trapped in a conveyor belt and had his left arm amputated.
At the end of the shift on February 17, the worker was cleaning the conveyor belt and reaching for what had fallen from the end of the machine. According to a report from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, the sleeves of his overalls were subsequently wrapped around the sprocket of the conveyor belt, causing terrible injuries.
“He was working alone when his arm was stuck by the machine and pulled in by the machine. He was there for a while screaming for help,” said Kim Cordova, chairman of the staff union United Food and Commercial Workers Local 7.
Cordova said that the man was a 37-year-old Burmese immigrant who was on the night shift and was “very shocked by what happened to him”.
Two days later, OSHA investigated the incident And determines JBS did not properly protect the conveyor belt, exposing its employees to the threat of losing their limbs. OSHA also found that employees did not know to wear a plastic device to ensure that the sleeves of the overalls would not move.
On August 17, OSHA’s Denver office notified JBS of the citations and proposed fines. The agency asked JBS to correct the plant’s safety violations by September 20.
The company can challenge these allegations. A JBS spokesperson did not respond to an email asking whether it would do so on Friday, but a spokesperson said in a statement that since the amputation, JBS has taken steps to improve the safety of the plant.
“We express our sympathy to the team members who were affected in this accident,” said Cameron Bruett, a spokesperson for JBS. “Due to this incident, we conducted a plant-wide safety audit, including a comprehensive review of machine protection and related emissions reductions, and hired third-party experts to review our health and safety training and agreements.”
OSHA did not respond to questions on Friday about whether JBS disputed the citation and whether the company has paid a fine of nearly $175,000.
“The citation is appropriate, but $175,000 will not replace his arm,” Cordova said. “This poor gentleman really suffered a lot of physical and mental pressure because he lost his arm.”
OSHA records show that JBS was fined twice on August 2. The company was told to pay US$27,306 and US$25,746 after an employee was kicked by a cow because the employee sprayed water at 180 degrees without proper protection.
In September 2020, JBS was fined $15,615 by OSHA for failing to protect employees at Greeley’s facility from COVID-19. Six workers died there and nearly 300 people were infected. The fine angered Cordoba and the American Federation of Food and Commercial Workers, who called the amount “insulting” and “ineffective.”
Headquartered in Brazil, JBS is the world’s largest meat packaging company. Its revenue last year exceeded 52 billion U.S. dollars.