Nahunta, GA – What could have been a catastrophic and life-changing incident for a teenage worker instead resulted in a painful injury, a frightening lesson and an opportunity for a Nahunta Piggly Wiggly supermarket franchisee to protect all of its workers better.
As a 16-year-old teenager was cleaning a meat grinder during his shift, he put his hand inside the machine and then had difficulty trying to pull his hand out. As he attempted to free his stuck hand, his elbow hit the power switch while his hand was still inside. Fortunately, the boy suffered only a cut finger followed by a trip to the hospital for stitches.
The U.S. Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division investigated the incident and found Sandy Foods Inc. – the store’s owner – violated child labor requirements by allowing a minor to dismantle and clean a meat grinder. The employer paid a civil money penalty of $7,274 for violating child labor requirements of the Fair Labor Standards Act.
By law, workers under the age of 18 cannot operate, set up, adjust, clean, oil or repair power-driven food machines. These include slicers, grinders, choppers, cutters, bakery mixers and other power-driven bakery machines.
“Early work experiences can be rewarding for young workers and can provide great opportunities to learn important job skills that will be valuable in the workforce. Unfortunately, the age and lack of experience of these young workers can leave them vulnerable to hazardous conditions,” said Wage and Hour Division District Director Steven Salazar in Atlanta. “Employers have an obligation to ensure minors are not performing tasks that could be harmful, which is why child labor regulations were established. The Wage and Hour Division remains committed to strict enforcement of these laws to protect our youngest workers.”
The investigation also resulted in Sandy Foods Inc. taking steps to protect their workers, including ensuring no one under the age of 18 handles power-driven food machines, adding an extra disconnect power switch and other safety measures to prevent similar incidents.
For more information about the FLSA and other laws enforced by the division, contact the agency’s toll-free helpline at 866-4US-WAGE (487-9243). Learn more about the Wage and Hour Division, including a search tool to use if you think you may be owed back wages collected by the division.