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Finger amputation investigation finds safety violations at Pasco food processor

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December 27, 2017 #17-049

Tumwater – A Pasco food processing plant has been cited for repeated serious violations after a worker's finger was partially amputated in moving machinery. It's the third time in three years that workers for the same company have suffered amputation injuries on the job.

Freeze Pak, a division of Oregon Potato Co., faces $92,400 in fines from the Department of Labor & Industries (L&I) for three repeat-serious violations, along with two serious and one general violation.

L&I began an investigation in June after the worker suffered a fractured wrist and partially amputated finger when his hand got caught in a conveyor while he was cleaning under it.

Working in and around hazardous machinery and equipment requires safety procedures, known as "lockout/tagout," to prevent the machinery from starting or moving during service and maintenance. The penalty for the repeat-serious lockout/tagout violation is $52,800. 

L&I has cited the employer four times in three years for similar violations; three of those involved a finger amputation. 

The investigation also found two instances where Freeze Pak did not adequately guard machinery to protect employees from exposure to serious injuries like broken bones, amputations, permanent disability or death. Both cases involved problems with a waste conveyor. The employer was cited for the same two violations in December 2014. Because of that, they're considered repeat-serious violations and carry a penalty of $13,200.

Two serious violations were cited for lack of a written energy-control program to prevent inadvertent startup of machine or equipment, and for not providing suitable tools to protect employees from hazards while working the conveyor. Those violations each carry a penalty of $6,600.

The company was also cited for one general violation for not inspecting and replacing worn parts on a "door closer" on the conveyor that wasn't working. General violations don't typically carry a penalty.

As a result of the repeat-serious violations associated with an amputation injury, the employer has been identified as a severe violator and will be subject to follow-up inspections to determine if the cited conditions still exist in the future.

Freeze Pak has appealed the citation. Penalty money paid as a result of a citation is placed in the workers' compensation supplemental pension fund, helping workers and families of those who have died on the job.

For a copy of the citation, please contact L&I Public Affairs at 360-902-5413.

For media information: Elaine Fischer, 360-902-5413 or

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