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National COSH on Death of a Contract Worker at a Perdue Poultry Plant

Thursday, August 12, 2021
Press Contacts: 

Roger Kerson, 734.645.0535; roger@nationalcosh.org

National COSH on Death of a Contract Worker at a Perdue Poultry Plant

Company Actions Lead to a Preventable
Tragedy; Workers Must Be Protected from
Retaliation During the Investigation

The following statement is from Jessica E. Martinez, co-executive director
of the National Council for Occupational Safety and Health (National COSH)

“The tragic death of Anthony Ramirez, a 23-year old father who leaves behind a one-year old infant and a pregnant wife, was no accident. This deadly electrocution at a Perdue Farms poultry plant is the result of actions by a company and an industry that routinely disregard worker safety. Perdue and its contractor failed to provide a workplace ‘free from recognized hazards’ as mandated by the Occupational Safety and Health (OSH) Act.

“Both host company Perdue and cleaning contractor QSI must be held fully responsible for their actions which led to this tragedy.  During a thorough investigation, OSHA must fully protect all workers who come forward as witnesses -- especially any immigrant or undocumented workers. 

“Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) must be instructed to stay away from this facility during this investigation, and to have no contact at all with any workers or family members.”

Background: 

Anthony Ramirez, a 23-year old employee of Quality Services International (QSI), a Texas-based cleaning firm, was electrocuted and died on Sunday, August 8th. He had been assigned to clean an area called the “Hot Room” at a Perdue Farms poultry processing plant in Perry, Georgia.

Poultry Industry: Working in a poultry plant is among the most hazardous jobs in the United States, with injury rates sixty percent higher than the average for U.S. industries -- more dangerous than working in a coal mine or a construction site.  In January 2021, six workers were killed and at least a dozen others were injured after a nitrogen leak at a Food Foundation Group poultry plant in Gainesville, Georgia, about 150 miles south of Perry.

Following an investigation, OSHA determined the six deaths were preventable and proposed nearly $1 million in fines against Food Foundation Group and contractors Messer LLC, Packers Sanitation Services, and FS Group.

In 2019, OSHA entered into a formal “alliance” with poultry industry trade organizations. Worker advocates have long been concerned that such arrangements do not put enough emphasis on inspections and enforcement for workplace safety violations.  OSHA has just notified poultry industry representatives that the “alliance” will be discontinued. 

Perdue Farms, based in Salisbury, MD., is one of the nation’s largest poultry producers. According to the Violation Tracker from Good Jobs First, the company has been cited for safety violations by OSHA 39 times since 2001, with combined fines of over $450,000.

The Perdue plant in Perry, Ga where Anthony Ramirez died has submitted at least ten serious injury reports to OSHA since 2015, the most recent in April 2021. Perdue plants have also been the site of COVID-19 outbreaks in Iowa, Kentucky, Maryland and other locations, impacting workers and nearby communities.

National COSH links the efforts of local worker health and safety coalitions in communities across the United States, advocating for elimination of preventable hazards in the workplace. For more information, please visit nationalcosh.org. Follow us at @NationalCOSH on Facebook, @NationalCOSH on Twitter and @NationalCOSH on Instagram.