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Wegmans faces OSHA fines after worker is pulled into conveyor belt

Wegmans, cited by Fortune magazine as one of the best companies in the country to work for, has been fined $140,000 by the Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration.

The fine stems from a December incident at Wegmans’ central baking facility in Rochester. An employee was cleaning a conveyor belt while it was still powered on. Her hand got caught between the belt and roller, pulling her in further and breaking bones in her hand and arm.

OSHA found Wegmans had not trained its workers to turn off the conveyor belt and lock out its power source while cleaning. That’s a violation of OSHA’s hazardous energy control standard. Workers also regularly cleaned the machine without turning it off, OSHA said.

OSHA set the steep fine because it was a repeated violation that resulted in a preventable injury, it said.

The supermarket was fined $188,200 in September for two other worker injuries. A similar conveyer belt injury occurred in March 2015, when a worker’s fingertip was mutilated and required surgery. OSHA found that injury was also the result of failing to power off the machine.

In April 2015, another employee was repairing a valve when escaping steam gave him a first-degree burn on his wrist. OSHA said the steam burn occurred after Wegmans failed to develop a procedure to lock the valve that supplied steam to the pipe. Wegmans also failed to provide hand and face protection for employees working on the steam valve, OSHA found.

Wegmans settled that case in February, agreeing to pay $152,500 in penalties.

The Buffalo Area Office of OSHA completed all three investigations.

The grocer said having a safe workplace is one of its top priorities and that its current rate of workplace accidents is at the lowest it has been in the company’s history.

“Even one injury to an employee is one too many. We care about our employees and want them to be safe,” the company said in a statement.

Wegmans has 15 business days to appeal the current case.

email: schristmann@buffnews.com