JBS fined $175,000 after Greeley worker loses arm in conveyor belt
The meatpacking giant JBS USA was issued five citations and fines totaling $174,566 last month after a worker at its beef plant in Greeley became stuck in a conveyor belt and had his left arm amputated.
At the end of his shift on Feb. 17, the worker was cleaning a conveyor belt and reached for something that fell off the end of the machinery. His smock sleeve then became tangled in the conveyor belt’s sprockets, causing the grisly injury, according to a report by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration.
“He was working alone when his arm got caught in the machinery and it pulled him in. He was there for a period of time screaming for help,” said Kim Cordova, president of United Food and Commercial Workers Local 7, the employee’s union.
Cordova said the man is a 37-year-old Burmese immigrant who was working the evening shift and is “really devastated by what happened to him.”
OSHA investigated the incident two days later and determined JBS had not properly guarded the conveyor belt, exposing its employees to the threat of lost limbs. OSHA also found that employees did not know to wear a plastic device that ensures smock sleeves don’t dangle.
On Aug. 17, OSHA’s Denver office informed JBS of the citations and proposed fines. The agency gave JBS until Sept. 20 to correct safety violations at the plant.
The company can contest the allegations. A JBS spokesman did not respond to an email Friday asking if it would do so, but a spokesman said in a statement that JBS has taken steps to improve safety at the plant since the amputation.
“Our sympathies go out to our team member who was impacted during this accident,” JBS spokesman Cameron Bruett said. “As a result of the incident, we conducted a full-plant safety audit, including a comprehensive review of machine guarding and related abatements, and enlisted a third-party expert to review our health and safety training and protocols.”
OSHA did not respond to questions Friday about whether JBS is contesting the citations and whether the company has paid the nearly $175,000 in penalties.
“The citations were appropriate but $175,000 isn’t going to replace his arm,” Cordova said. “This poor gentleman is really going through a lot of physical and psychological stress due to the loss of his arm.”
JBS was also fined twice on Aug. 2, OSHA records show. The company was told to pay $27,306 after an employee was lacerated by a kicking cow and $25,746 because employees were spraying 180-degree water without proper protection.
JBS was fined $15,615 by OSHA in September 2020 for failing to protect employees at the Greeley plant from COVID-19. Six workers there died and nearly 300 were infected. That fine outraged Cordova and United Food and Commercial Workers, who called the dollar amount “insulting” and “ineffectual.”
Headquartered in Brazil, JBS is the world’s largest meatpacking company. It took in more than $52 billion in revenue last year.
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