The U.S. Labor Department's Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and Tropicana Beverages North America have entered into a settlement agreement after the company was cited for exposing workers to serious safety hazards at the company's Bradenton, Fla., processing plant. The company has agreed to abate all cited hazards and pay penalties totaling $164,250.
Tropicana Bradenton has been a Star site in OSHA's Voluntary Protection Programs (VPP) since February 2000. Before 1988, OSHA inspected the facility 41 times and issued citations for 265 violations. After entering the VPP, and prior to an accident last October, the site was inspected 13 times and cited for only four violations.
"I have met with officials of Tropicana and parent company, PepsiCo, and believe this event was a wake-up call. I am convinced of their commitment to the high standards of the Voluntary Protection Programs," said Cindy Coe Laseter, OSHA's Atlanta regional administrator. "The October incident at the Bradenton plant, however, underscores the importance of continuous safety evaluations, and this employer is renewing their efforts to ensure Tropicana Bradenton will maintain their VPP Star status."
In December 2004, when cleaning procedures changed, a hazard evaluation for use of a flammable liquid in maintenance operations was reportedly not performed and a warning on the container label was not heeded.
OSHA began an investigation in October 2005, after two mechanics were seriously burned by a flash fire that occurred during maintenance operations.
OSHA issued two willful citations, with proposed penalties of $126,000. The company was cited for failing to take adequate precautions to prevent the ignition of flammable vapors produced by a solvent - a mixture of brine, ammonia and oil - used to clean sludge from compressors. The company was also cited for failure to enforce its own policy and OSHA requirements to provide employees with fall arrest equipment when exposed to fall hazards of up to 25 feet during compressor maintenance operations.
The company also received 10 serious citations and a $38,250 fine for failing to establish and implement: a "management of change" program; employee safety training; written procedures to maintain the integrity of equipment; and safety assessments to prevent employee exposure to chemical, "hot work," confined space and electrical hazards.