News Release 98-334
Wednesday, August 5, 1998
Contact: Bill Wright (202) 219-8151
James Borders (904) 232-2895
GOLD KIST INC. AGREES TO PAY $724,000
IN FINES; WILL MAKE CORPORATE WIDE SAFETY AND HEALTH IMPROVEMENTS
Gold Kist Inc., a food processing company headquartered in
Atlanta, Ga., will pay a $724,000 penalty for safety and health
violations at a Florida poultry processing plant, and take steps to
improve safety and health conditions for its poultry processing
employees in five southeastern states, under an agreement announced
today by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).
Gold Kist Inc. was issued citations as a result of OSHA inspections
begun in February 1998 at its Live Oak, Fla. poultry processing plant.
Under the terms of the settlement reached today, the company agreed
to pay the full penalty proposed by OSHA, make significant safety and
health improvements throughout its poultry processing facilities and
share information with other companies on process safety with regard
to ammonia refrigeration systems. The agreement is supported by the
labor unions that represent employees at four Gold Kist plants.
"We are pleased that Gold Kist agreed to resolve this matter
quickly to ensure maximum protection for its employees," said
Secretary of Labor Alexis M. Herman. "This settlement indicates
the company's willingness to go beyond the letter of the law and
to serve as a role model for others in promoting workplace safety
The agreement settles citations issued against the company that
included: hazards related to ammonia refrigeration systems;
lockout/tagout and machine guarding deficiencies; lack of hearing
protection; risks relating to bloodborne exposures; electrical hazards
and confined space hazards. Gold Kist Inc. agreed to correct all
conditions cited at the Live Oak facility.
In addition, the settlement applies to eight other Gold Kist Inc.
poultry processing facilities in Alabama and Georgia. The company,
which employs 16,000 workers, also has two facilities in North
Carolina and one in South Carolina, and under the terms of the
settlement, the company will seek similar agreements with those
states, both of which operate their own OSHA-approved
occupational safety and health programs.
"Gold Kist has chosen to take a proactive stance to improve
safety and health conditions for its workers at all 12 of its poultry
processing facilities," said Charles Jeffress, assistant secretary for
OSHA. "In its desire to move forward for the betterment of the
workers, Gold Kist and OSHA can together concentrate on safety
and health issues, and avoid the cost and burden of possible
Labor unions supporting the agreement reached today are:
United Food and Commercial Workers Union; Bakery, Confectionary,
and Tobacco Workers Union; and Retail, Wholesale and Department
Gold Kist's corporate safety director will be responsible for implementing
the agreement, which includes establishing a safety and health program
based on OSHA's voluntary guidelines for safety and health program
management. Implementation of these guidelines will hold management
responsible and accountable for worker safety and health from the
corporate level down to front-line supervision, in addition to ensuring
employee involvement in the process.
This agreement also commits the company to implement a three-year
semi-annual inspection program at each of the nine poultry processing
facilities to address general safety and health issues. In addition, an
independent safety audit will be conducted at each of the facility's
ammonia refrigeration systems, and Gold Kist will implement an
aggressive incident investigation procedure to address ammonia leaks.
Finally, Gold Kist Inc. agreed to sponsor at least five "lessons learned"
seminars, focused on the effective and safe operation of ammonia
refrigeration systems. The seminars will be held in the five southeastern
states where the company has poultry processing facilities within the
next 18 months. The company agreed to invite to the training other
employers in the poultry processing industry and companies within
the food processing industry where ammonia refrigeration systems
"Under OSHA's five-year strategic plan, we are focusing on five
specific industries where we hope to help employers achieve a 15
percent reduction in occupational injury and illness rates," Jeffress
said. "Food processing is one of those industries. Gold Kist's commitment
to develop and then share expertise in the safe operation of ammonia
refrigeration systems through the training seminars will further our
goal of safeguarding workers throughout this industry."
The Gold Kist agreement will remain in effect for three years.