OSHA Report Blames Mississippi Slaughterhouse for Tragic Death of Migrant Teen

A Mississippi slaughterhouse, a key supplier to Chick-fil-A, bears direct responsibility for the tragic death of a 16-year-old worker who was fatally pulled into equipment in July, according to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). 

The US Labor Department’s agency cited Mar-Jac Poultry, a Georgia-based company, for 14 serious violations, proposing fines exceeding $200,000.

OSHA Regional Administrator Kurt Petermeyer asserted, “Mar-Jac Poultry is aware of how dangerous the machinery they use can be when safety standards are not in place to prevent serious injury and death.” 

The agency’s investigation concluded that the company’s inaction directly led to the preventable death of Duvan Pérez, the young worker who was cleaning the deboning area when he was pulled into the machinery.

Despite a Mar-Jac manager supervising the area during the accident, OSHA officials noted that procedures to disconnect power were not utilized. 

Pérez became the second worker in two years at the Hattiesburg plant to be accidentally killed after being pulled into a machine.

Mar-Jac Poultry, however, declined to comment on OSHA’s findings, maintaining in an October statement that all safety procedures had been followed. 

The company’s attorney, Larry Stine, emphasized that the accident had been thoroughly investigated, with no errors found in safety or human resources protocols.

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Chick-fil-A Investigated for Child Labor

osha-report-blames-mississippi-slaughterhouse-tragic-death-migrant-teen
A Mississippi slaughterhouse, a key supplier to Chick-fil-A, bears direct responsibility for the tragic death of a 16-year-old worker who was fatally pulled into equipment in July, according to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).

Chick-fil-A, a recipient of chicken supplies from Mar-Jac, had not provided an immediate response to the findings. 

However, a spokesperson in October expressed the company’s commitment to reviewing procedures and ensuring suppliers adhere to high safety standards.

Workplace safety expert Debbie Berkowitz, formerly an OSHA official during the Obama administration, underscored the gravity of the safety violations, emphasizing the alarming safety track record at the poultry plant.

Following Pérez’s death, two Labor Department investigations were initiated—one focusing on the circumstances of the teenager’s death (conducted by OSHA), and the other examining the illegal hiring of a minor for such hazardous work (conducted by the Wage and Hour Division). The latter investigation, addressing the illegal employment of a 16-year-old using a false identity, remains ongoing.

Child labor violations have surged across industries, nearly doubling since 2019, prompting over 800 ongoing child labor investigations in 47 states, according to the Labor Department. 

In a bid to gather information, the agency appealed to the public for help in its child labor investigation related to Mar-Jac, as current employees were reluctant to speak out.

Mar-Jac’s attorney, Larry Stine, acknowledged the surprise and concern within the company upon discovering Pérez’s true age, emphasizing that the potential fines from the Labor Department have a significant impact on a company’s reputation.

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