116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
Iowa regulators have fined Agri Star Meat & Poultry plant in Postville $28,415 for safety violations found after a February explosion injured two employees.
The state cited Agri Star for four serious violations leading to the Feb. 15 explosion in the dock area of the kosher meat processing plant.
The largest fine, $11,366, was for not maintaining safe surfaces for walking and operating vehicles, according to citations The Gazette obtained from Iowa OSHA.
Inspectors found the dock floor was covered with ice, dirt, bird feathers, water and manure, which caused an employee operating a powered- industrial truck — like a forklift — on Feb. 15 to back into a propane cylinder, puncturing it and releasing gas, which caused the explosion.
The blast hit two men working nearby, causing burns on one worker's face and injuring the other. The plant temporarily lost power and the explosion damaged the dock roof and walls. Unrelated to the explosion, the floor debris caused an Agri Star employee to slip and fall, injuring his back, Feb. 9.
Iowa OSHA also cited Agri Star for not evaluating powered-industrial truck operators’ performance at least every three years and failing to certify training and evaluation of these operators. The last violation says Agri Star failed to train operators to slow down on slippery or wet floors.
“Employee was operating a powered-industrial truck; unloading live poultry in cages,” the citation notes. “The condition of the floor was known to be wet and covered in feathers, bird feces and sawdust, yet the employer did not take actions to offset the conditions.”
Agri Star has paid the penalties in this case, Iowa OSHA reported.
Agri Star opened in 2009 at the site of the former Agriprocessors Inc. Canadian business owner Hershey Friedman bought the plant and invested $7.5 million to modernize and upgrade before reopening, The Gazette reported in 2010, two years after a massive immigration raid at Agriprocessors.
Friedman told Forward.com in 2016 the facility was processing about 50,000 birds a day, primarily chickens. He said the plant can slaughter 400 cattle in a day, but often processed fewer because it was looking for quality beef from within a 100-mile radius of the plant.
Friedman said Agri Star also was using the government’s E-Verify program to make sure employees have legal immigration status, Forward.com reported.
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