Ga. Birdsong plants cited

Published 9:46 pm Tuesday, January 5, 2010

The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration has proposed penalties totaling $137,250 against Birdsong Corp. in the wake of a death late last summer at the company’s Blakely, Ga., facility.

The fines would be the result of 41 safety and health violations cited by OSHA inspectors who visited Birdsong’s plants in Blakely and Sylvester, Ga. The company, headquartered in Suffolk, also has peanut-processing facilities here and in Texas. Neither the Virginia nor the Texas facilities, however, were cited in the OSHA report.

“Our inspections, and a worker fatality at the Blakely plant, show the need for management to get serious about the safety and health of its employees,” said Robert Vazzi, OSHA’s director in the Savannah, Ga., office.

Inspectors from OSHA found a total of 21 serious and one other-than-serious safety violations during an inspection of the company’s Sylvester plant that began in June, according to a news release on Tuesday by the federal safety agency.

The alleged violations in the Sylvester plant included lack of machine guards, fall hazards, electrical hazards, a lack of emergency lighting and unmarked exit doors. A separate inspection in July, initiated to address possible noise hazards there, resulted in inspectors issuing notices of three serious and one other-than-serious health violations.

OSHA has proposed $88,200 in penalties for the alleged violations at the Sylvester plant.

The company’s Blakely, Ga., plant came under OSHA scrutiny following a September incident in which an employee died after being caught in a conveyor belt.

That investigation led inspectors to issue notices of three serious and one other-than-serious safety violation. Those violations included missing machine guards and other guardrails.

The alleged violations at the Blakely plant could cost the company $49,050 in fines.

The company has 15 business days from receipt of the notices to get its facilities in compliance, to request an informal conference with an OSHA director or to contest the citations and proposed penalties.

Charles Birdsong, vice president of operations and procurement for Birdsong Peanuts, responded Tuesday evening by email to a request for comment on the OSHA announcement.

“Birdsong Corporation has always taken safety issues seriously, and its employees and their safety and health are the Company’s highest priority,” he wrote.

“Birdsong is in the process of carefully reviewing the OSHA citations at the two Georgia locations and looks forward to discussing these matters with the appropriate OSHA representatives.”