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Hershey packer fails to record worker injuries for four years

By Oliver Nieburg , 23-Feb-2012

The US Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has cited a packer of Hershey chocolates for multiple health and safety violations.

OSHA has proposed fines totalling $283,000 to logistics contractor Exel, which employed foreign students as summer workers to package chocolate at a Hershey owned site in Palmyra, Pennsylvania.

Indifference to worker safety

Following a six-month inspection that ended on Tuesday, OSHA found Exel in contravention of six wilful violations for failing to record worker injuries or illness for four years, failing to evaluate 300 logs before certifying them for three years and failing to implement an effective hearing conservation programme.

A wilful violation is one committed intentionally, with disregard to the law or with plain indifference to worker health and safety.

OSHA identified around 40 worker injuries that occurred during the four year period when records were improperly kept.

Excel was also cited for three other minor violations carrying a $3,000 penalty.

It has 15 days after receipt of the citation letter to comply with steps outlined by OSHA, ask for a conference with an OSHA area director or contest the citation.

Hershey reaction

Hershey director of corporate communications Jeff Beckman told ConfectioneryNews.com that the OSHA citation was against Exel and he couldn’t speak on its behalf.

Asked if Hershey would be reviewing its contracts with Exel following the episode, Beckman said: “We are confident that Exel will make the necessary adjustments to address the concerns expressed by OSHA.”

Hershey not legally liable; perhaps socially

US Department of Labor deputy regional director Joanna Hawkins told this site: “OSHA is not charging Hershey with any OSHA violations because under Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission case law, the only employer who is citable is the one that has significant control over the manner and means of the employee’s work.”

Since Exel ran the facility on Hershey’s behalf it was not seen to have breached any laws.

However, Hawkins pointed to a line in OSHA’s , Multi-Employer Citation Policy which suggested some social responsibility : ”Companies who create this work for contractors and subcontractors should incorporate safe work practices into their contracts – not because it’s required by federal law – but because it’s the right thing to do.”

Record keeping

OSHA assistant secretary Dr. David Michaels said: "Nothing useful can be learned from an unrecorded injury."

"Accurate records provide critical information to employers and employees about the cause and prevention of work-related injuries.”

The law requires employers to maintain complete and accurate records because, without these, it is more difficult to prevent additional injuries and illnesses from occurring," he said.

Related action

Recruitment firm SHS Group, operating as SHS Staffing Solutions, hired students to work at the Palmyra site and was cited for one violation carrying a $5,000 fine.

Global exchange organisation CETUSA which also provided foreign students has so far avoided any citations, but an investigation is on-going.

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