Pearson Farms LLC., located in Fort Valley, Georgia, has been cited for multiple safety violations by the U.S. Department of Safety and Health Administration.
The employee was exposed to hazards while performing maintenance on a conveyor system, and caught between a load on a forklift and metal railing. After an investigation, OSHA also cited Pearson Farms for putting other employees at risk of fall accidents, coming into contact with harmful chemicals and amputation hazards.
In addition, the employer neglected to adequately train workers on operating heavy machinery, such as forklifts.
After one of their employees suffered serious workplace injuries that later proved fatal, Pearson Farms now faces $128,004 in penalty fees.
What is OSHA?
Established by Congress in 1970, the Occupational Safety and Health Association (OSHA) is a sister organization to the U. S. Department of Labor dedicated to “ensuring safe and healthful working conditions for working men and women by setting and enforcing standards and by providing training, outreach, education and assistance.”
Covering all 50 states and some territories, OSHA focuses primarily on the private sector of the work industry as well as a few public sector businesses.
Employers in the state of Georgia are legally required to train their workers and ensure their safety by notifying them (with the appropriate signs of caution) when there is a hazard in the workplace.
Employers must also provide the essential safety gear, such as gloves and protective eyewear, while their workers are on the clock. Since Pearson Farms failed to take those necessary actions, they were given 15 days from the receipt of the citations to correct their errors and pay the proposed penalties.
Contesting OSHA violations and litigation
Pearson Farms has 15 days to contest the citations by submitting a Notice of Intent to the proper office. The key to filing such notices is to make it in good faith, meaning the employer isn’t simply filing to avoid the proposed penalties. Notices of Intent that are not filed in good faith are not considered by OSHA.
If Pearson Farms decides to contest, the penalties will be temporarily suspended until the matter is resolved via the Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission. The Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission (OSHRC) will review the case, then assign it to an administrative law judge for a scheduled hearing in which both the employer and employees are able to take part.
After the initial hearing, if the judge finds the employer guilty, they must either pay the court fees and penalties noted on the receipt of the citation or, like any legal process, request further review by the entire OSHRC. Their ruling can also be contested by the federal circuit court, in which case they have the final say on the ruling.