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Pennsylvania dairy plant turns away OSHA inspectors

When we drink a glass of milk or eat cheese, we might think of the cows that produced the milk, but not the workers that made it possible for us to consume the dairy products. A recent Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) probe into worker safety at a Pennsylvania dairy processing plant was prevented by company officials, so now federal officials had to seek a warrant to conduct their investigation.

Three complaints were filed against Dairy Farmers of America Inc. for improper use of a forklift, unsafe machinery and standing water near electrical equipment. When OSHA inspectors showed up last month, they were turned away by company officials. Safety officials believe there is credible evidence to support the claims of unsafe working conditions, so they pursued a warrant from a federal judge.

Safety officials are frequently turned away from industrial facilities when worker safety is called into question, so, unfortunately, it is not uncommon for OSHA to seek warrants to inspect potentially unsafe premises.

A spokesperson for the dairy corporation fired back by saying that their company takes product and employee safety very seriously. The Pennsylvania plant was following orders from the national corporate office to turn investigators away.

If the claims are substantiated by the investigation, the workers at the dairy plant have been exposed to serious dangers. The complaint states that forklift operators are not properly trained and that the standing water puts workers at risk for electrocution. It's hard to expect workers to perform at their best when they have to worry about their health and safety every day. Rather, dairy workers should come to work expecting that their employer has properly trained workers and eliminated unnecessary safety hazards.

Source: The Patriot-News, "Cumberland County dairy investigated for safety violations," Matt Miller, Feb. 13, 2012

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