Mississippi Slaughterhouse Blamed for Death of 16-Year-Old Worker

Federal authorities have identified a Mississippi slaughterhouse as the cause of a tragic incident that resulted in the death of a 16-year-old worker. The young employee was tragically sucked into a deboning machine, sustaining fatal injuries. This devastating event occurred on July 14, 2023, in Hattiesburg, and it is the second work-related fatality to occur at the Mar-Jac Poultry MS, LLC plant in just two years.

According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), the teenager, named Duvan PĂ©rez, was employed as a contract worker by Onin Staffing, LLC. He was responsible for deep cleaning the deboning area when the accident occurred. Shockingly, the manager on site failed to initiate the necessary safety protocol to disconnect power to the machine during the cleaning process. As a result, tragedy struck.

The consequences for the slaughterhouse are severe. Mar-Jac Poultry has been hit with a fine of over $200,000 in penalties, a figure determined by federal statute. OSHA has cited the company for 14 serious violations and three other-than-serious violations, highlighting their failure to ensure proper safety standards were in place.

This is not the first time Mar-Jac Poultry has faced consequences for their negligence. In 2021, the company was previously cited by OSHA after another worker’s shirt sleeve became entangled in a machine, resulting in their death. Despite this prior incident, the company has not taken sufficient steps to prioritize employee safety.

OSHA Regional Administrator, Kury Petermeyer, expressed his frustration at the company’s lack of action, stating, “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 company’s inaction has directly led to this terrible tragedy, which has left so many mourning the preventable death of this child.”

The Department of Labor has also launched a child labor investigation against Mar-Jac Poultry. In Mississippi, it is illegal for minors to be employed in packing or processing meat and poultry or to work with power-driven machinery. The investigation will determine if the company violated these laws.

Despite the severity of the incident, Mar-Jac Poultry has not accepted responsibility. The company’s attorney, Larry Stine, stated that they have thoroughly investigated the accident and found no errors committed by their safety or human resources employees. However, it has been revealed that the victim, Duvan, was hired under the identity of a 32-year-old man. He hailed from the Guatemalan village of Tuimuca.

Tragically, this incident sheds light on a larger issue. The Department of Labor has discovered that over 3,800 children were illegally employed by 835 companies in the last fiscal year. This number has been steadily increasing since 2018, highlighting the need for stricter regulations and enforcement to protect vulnerable young workers.

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