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OSHA fines Wegmans after two workers are hurt

Wegmans has been fined $188,200 by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s Buffalo Area Office.

OSHA’s citations, issued Sept. 1, are the result of an investigation into two worker injuries at its Rochester baking facility. OSHA’s safety inspections found persistent hazards that led to repeated injuries at Wegmans’ central bakery manufacturing facility at 1500 Brooks Ave. in Rochester earlier this year.

In March, an employee was cleaning a machine there when his fingertip was caught in a conveyor. The fingertip was mutilated and required surgery. In April, another employee was repairing a valve when escaping steam gave him a first-degree burn on his wrist.

OSHA found that the finger injury – which was reported to the agency as an amputation – resulted after Wegmans failed to turn off and lock the power source to the conveyor being cleaned. It also found Wegmans had not trained employees how to turn the conveyor off and did not ensure the conveyor’s moving parts were protected from contact. OSHA said the steam burn occurred after Wegmans failed to develop a procedure to lock the valve that supplied steam to the pipe.

The findings led to three OSHA citations to Wegmans proposing $175,000 in fines. OSHA also cited Wegmans for inadequate hand and face protection for employees working on the steam valve, resulting in an additional $13,200 in fines.

“If Wegmans had used proper safeguards, these preventable injuries would not have happened,” said Michael Scime, OSHA’s area director in Buffalo, in a release. “The company must take corrective action at all stores to ensure that hazards such as these – and the injuries that result – are eliminated.”

Wegmans has until Sept. 24 to comply, request an informal conference with an OSHA director, or contest the findings before the Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission, according to Ted Fitzgerald, an OSHA spokesman.

Rochester-based Wegmans said it works hard to maintain a safe workplace and that its current workplace accident rate is the lowest in the company’s history. It also stressed that both employees “fully recovered” from their injuries and returned to work.

“We care about our employees and want them to be safe,” said Jo Natale, a Wegmans spokeswoman. “Even one injury to an employee is too many for us.”

The grocer declined to comment as to whether it would contest or comply with OSHA’s findings.

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