A Connecticut Congresswoman is urging federal labor officials to investigate a worker’s death inside a Pilgrim’s Pride poultry processing plant in Alabama, saying the facility has racked up multiple safety violations and injuries in recent years.
Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.) called on Loren Sweatt, Deputy Assistant Secretary of Labor for the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), to “conduct a full and thorough investigation” of the worker’s death.
Gabriel Seth Brutley, 35, was fatally injured on the job in a freight elevator accident at the Pilgrim’s Pride plant in Guntersville, Alabama, Jan. 6.
Guntersville Fire Chief Brian Waldrop said Mr. Burley was in the freight elevator with a forklift and a pallet of goods when the lift dropped three stories. Guntersville police and fire departments responded to the scene. Mr. Burley was taken to a local hospital where he died of his injuries.
“This tragic fatality comes after several other troubling incidents in recent years, according to OSHA’s own records,” Rep. DeLauro said, citing four times workers have been severely injured at the Pilgrim’s Pride plant since 2016.
Rep. DeLauro said she is concerned about “the agency’s commitment to investigating” Mr. Brutley’s death considering it has failed to investigate the plant after a number of workers were seriously injured there in recent years.
OSHA did inspect and cite the plant for safety violations after a worker suffered an amputation injury on the job in 2016. But since 2017 three additional Pilgrim’s Pride workers have been severely injured at the Guntersville plant, “none of which resulted in any OSHA plant inspection,” Rep. DeLauro said.
According to Huntsville, Alabama’s WAAY 31, the Pilgrim’s Pride plant has an even longer record or worker injuries stretching back to at least 2013. Since that year, OSHA has cited the plant for violations concerning its mishandling of carbon dioxide, chemicals, and hazardous energy, to name a few.
Despite its poor safety record and the risks faced by workers, Pilgrim’s Pride received permission from the U.S. Department of Agriculture last August to increase line speeds from 140 chickens per minute to 175.
“Increased line speeds can impact all workers in the plant, and, as you are aware, there is a growing body of data documenting the association between faster line speeds and worker injuries,” Rep. DeLauro wrote.
“All workers have a right to a safe workplace, and no worker should ever have to sacrifice their life for a paycheck,” DeLauro wrote. “The agency must make sure that this fatality, and all worker fatalities, receives the resources and comprehensive attention it deserves.”
The number of worker injuries and fatalities has soared under the Trump administration, reaching a 10-year high in 2018. Experts say the American workplace has become more dangerous due to the administration’s rollback of worker protections and lax oversight. OSHA currently has the lowest number of inspectors in recent history, Rep. DeLauro notes in her letter to Sec. Sweatt.
Pilgrim’s Pride Corporation is owned by JBS S.A., a multinational meat processing company based in Brazil.
Beasley Allen lawyers Kendall Dunson and Evan Allen investigate claims of on-the-job injury. Very often, what seems like a simple worker’s compensation claim may involved a third-party liability claim related to defective products or dangerous machinery. They would be happy to talk with you about these types of cases.