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Cargill Poultry, OSHA Agree On Repetitive-Motion Program

August 5, 1991

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) _ Cargill Inc. will pay $400,000 to settle allegations that it violated safety standards for repetitive-motion injuries at poultry plants.

The company also agreed to continue implementing a program begun in 1989 to combat the injuries at five poultry plants where 1,800 people work.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration had proposed $996,600 in penalties in the fall of 1989 after inspecting plants in Buena Vista, Ga.; Jacksonville, Fla.; and California, Mo. OSHA alleged 113 willful violations of federal safety standards at the Buena Vista plant and 101 alleged violations at the Missouri plant.

OSHA records said 90 percent of the Buena Vista plant’s 500 employees worked at tasks that exposed them to risk from repetitive-motion disorders, such as carpal tunnel syndrome. The injuries, usually affecting the hands and arms, are caused by repeated motions over an extended period of time.

The plant has the capacity to process 8,000 chickens an hour.

″The company fully recognized that employees were exposed to hazards causing serious physical harm and took little action to eliminate or reduce the possibility of injury,″ said Elizabeth Dole, who was then secretary of labor.

Cargill said Monday that it had sought OSHA’s advice about repetitive- motion risks in 1988 and was referred to independent consultants. It began implementing a program in 1989, ″well before OSHA issued its 1990 general guidelines on ergonomic safety,″ the company said.

″We believe our starting comprehensive ergonomics programs at all plants prior to the OSHA agreement demonstrated to the agency our commitment to worker safety,″ said James Bassett, president of Cargill’s Worldwide Poultry Operations.

Cargill poultry plants covered by the agreement are in Buena Vista, Ga.; Jacksonville, Fla.; California, Mo.; Ozark, Ark.; and Springdale, Ark.

Cargill did not admit to wrongdoing.