OSHA cites Agro Farma for 34 violations of workplace safety and health standards; proposes $178,000 in fines

By WKTV News

SOUTH EDMESTON, N.Y. - The U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration has cited Agro Farma Inc. for 34 alleged violations of workplace safety and health standards at its New Berlin facility.

The manufacturer of Chobani Greek Yogurt faces a total of $178,000 in proposed penalties following inspections by OSHA's Syracuse Area Office that were prompted by a complaint.

"Our inspections identified a wide range of mechanical, chemical, electrical and health hazards that, left uncorrected, expose the plant's employees to being caught in moving machine parts or unexpectedly energized machinery, electrocution, falls, being overcome in toxic or oxygen-deficient atmospheres, and hearing loss," said Christopher Adams, OSHA's area director in Syracuse.

OSHA found numerous instances of unguarded moving machine parts; electrical hazards, including failing to train employees in electric safety-related work practices; a lack of personal protective equipment for employees working on live electrical equipment; a lack of fall protection for employees accessing the top of milk trucks; missing or inadequate energy control procedures and training for employees cleaning a trash compactor; failing to label all confined space work areas and provide confined space training; wet floors; unguarded floor holes; railings not provided over dangerous equipment; and stairway and exit deficiencies.

The inspection also identified deficiencies in the plant's process safety management program, which prevents the unexpected release of toxic, reactive or flammable liquids and gases in processes involving highly hazardous chemicals, including unlabeled containers of hazardous chemicals; failing to provide audiometric testing for employees exposed to excess noise levels; and failing to refit and retrain employees who experienced a hearing loss.

These conditions resulted in the issuance of 33 serious citations, with $177,000 in proposed fines. 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.

Agro Farma Inc. also has been issued one other-than-serious citation, with a $1,000 fine, for failing to record hearing losses in its OSHA 300 injury and illness log. 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.
"An effective illness and injury prevention program is one way of preventing workplace hazards such as these," said Robert Kulick, OSHA's regional director in New York.

The citations can be viewed online at: the following link, as well as at this link.

Agro Farma Inc. has 15 business days from receipt of its citations and proposed penalties to comply, meet with OSHA's area director or contest the findings before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.

A spokesperson for Agro Farma released the following statement:

"Since our start in 2005, we have grown from five employees to over 1,200 strong. There is nothing more important to us than our people, and we are committed to providing a safe, healthy workplace. Since OSHA’s initial inspection, we have undertaken substantial abatement and corrective actions. We are reviewing the citation and will continue to work with OSHA throughout this process to make our company the industry standard in safety."

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