Danger on the docks: Del Monte fined for forklift accidents, hazards

| 10/25/2007

A major food processing company has been fined following multiple instances of employees being hit and injured by forklifts and other injuries that went unreported.

In early October, the Oregon Occupational Safety and Health Division fined Del Monte Fresh Produce $13,100, according to a news release from the state agency.

American Staffing Resources, which employs some of the people who work in the produce plant, also was named as a responsible party by Oregon OSHA and was fined $15,600.

Oregon OSHA investigated the Del Monte Fresh Produce plant in Portland, earlier this year after one worker was struck and injured by a forklift when the forklift operator drove 17 feet in reverse “without looking before striking the accident victim,” the release stated.

Further, Oregon OSHA found multiple violations of the Oregon Safe Employment Act including:

  • Failing to protect workers from safety hazards, including multiple areas where electrical connections were exposed to water, ladder rungs were covered with diced cabbage, protective equipment wasn’t provided to employees, and workers “routinely worked 8- to 12-hour shifts wearing footwear that became wet.”
  • Incomplete documentation of workplace injuries and illnesses. Several workplace injuries weren’t documented and required information went unreported for accident forms.
  • Failure to conduct investigations of accidents in order to prevent future accidents, although seven accidents were documented in 2006 where a worker was struck and injured by a forklift while standing next to a stationary object.
  • Failing to ensure that non-management employees were represented on the employer safety committee.

“This investigation revealed numerous safety hazards at the Del Monte plant that could have caused even more accidents and injuries,” said Michael Wood, administrator of Oregon OSHA. “If we are going to prevent injuries before they occur, employers must be held accountable for hazards in their workplaces and take steps to correct them.”

Oregon OSHA said its investigation had been under way before June 12, 2007, when the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency raided the Portland plant and detained 167 workers.

Del Monte Fresh Produce has 20 days after receiving the citation to appeal the state’s findings.

– By Charlie Morasch, staff writer