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Tyson Foods to Pay $500,000, Serve Probation for Worker's Death

Tyson Foods, Inc., pleaded guilty to willfully violating worker safety regulation and causing the death of an employee. The world’s largest producer of chicken, beef and pork agreed to pay $500,000 for its violation, and will also serve one year of probation.

As reported by Reuters, Tyson pleaded guilty to a "willful violation of an OSHA standard resulting in the death of an employee." Such violations are the most serious offences of Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) rules. The $500,000 fine is the maximum allowed. Tyson also agreed to serve one year of probation.

The accident occurred in 2003 at a Tyson plant in Texarkana, Arkansas which converts poultry meat and byproducts into animal feed. Tyson employee Jason Kelley, attempting to fix a piece of leaky equipment, was killed by exposure to hydrogen sulfide gas. The gas is created by hydrolyzers, high-pressure steam processors which convert poultry feathers into "feather meal." OSHA requires employers to take steps to limit worker exposure to dangerous gases such as hydrogen sulfide.

After pleading guilty, Tyson officials issued a statement reiterating their regret over the death of Mr. Kelley, and pointing out that they have since implemented changes to prevent such accidents from happening again. In the plea agreement, Tyson agreed that before the accident, its corporate safety and regional management were aware of the dangers of hydrogen sulfide gas and of its presence in the Texarkana plant, but failed to act to prevent worker injury and death.

In 2003, discharge of untreated waste water from a Missouri Tyson chicken plant into tributaries of the Lamine River lead Tyson to plead guilty to more than 20 violations of the Clean Water Act.