Safeway willfully disregarded worker safety at a milk packaging plant in Denver leading an employee to lose four fingers in an accident in February, federal officials say.
The U.S. Department of Labor notified the grocer this week that it is facing more than $339,000 in fines related to that incident. Safeway has until Sept. 13 to either address the workplace safety violations investigators found and pay the fines, request a conference with officials or contest the findings before an independent review commission, the Department of Labor said in a news release.
The accident happened on Feb. 12, according to documents sent to Safeway parent Albertsons Companies’ offices in California this week. An employee was adjusting a molding machine when it automatically cycled and “amputated all four of her fingers on one hand,” the documents say.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration, or OSHA, representatives visited the packaging facility and investigated the incident, finding seven violations of workplace safety rules, including some that directly contributed to the worker’s injury. As outlined in the documents, that included failing to implement safety procedures that would prevent machines from operating unintentionally and failing to provide safety guards around machines.
Those two violations were deemed “willful” and carry the stiffest potential penalties, $136,532 apiece.
“Safeway Inc. knew its equipment lacked safeguards, yet the company chose to let work continue without regard to workers’ safety. This indifference caused a worker to suffer a serious and permanent injury,” Amanda Kupper, OSHA’s area director in Denver, said in a statement.
Kupper is the official the company will meet with if it requests a conference about the investigation’s findings.
Reached by email Friday, Safeway representatives declined a request for an interview about the situation.
Spokeswoman Kris Staaf provided the following statement on behalf of Albertsons Companies: “We care deeply about the safety of our associates and are committed to compliance with OSHA and similar state and local laws. We cannot comment on a matter that is the subject of ongoing litigation.”
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