‘Consistent failure to protect workers’: Pepsi US bottler faces $87,000 fine

The famous Pepsi-Cola sign in Queens, NYC. Pepsi is one of the brands bottled by G&J Pepsi-Cola Beverages (Photo: Roger Braunstein/Flickr)

A high-profile Pepsi bottler faces a fine of $86,900 for allegedly failing to protect its US workers and implement basic safety requirements, according to the US Department of Labor.

The department’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) cited G&J Pepsi-Cola Bottlers Inc. for seven workplace health and safety violations at its Franklin Furnace site in Ohio near Portsmouth – the fine would be consistent with these if they are upheld.

Bill Wilkerson, OSHA area director in Cincinnati, said: “This company consistently failed to protect its workers and implement basic safety requirements.

“Repeat violations demonstrate a lack of commitment to employee safety and health and that it is unacceptable when employee safety is on the line.”

Higher than average illness or injury rates

G&J Pepsi-Cola Bottlers – which employs 1,600+ staff across 11 sites in Ohio and Kentucky and is the largest family-owned Pepsi franchise bottler – has contested the citations before the Occupational Safety & Health Review Commission.

(The independent Commission adjudicates on workplace safety and health disputes between the Department of Labor and employers – after hearing evidence from both sides an administrative law judge chooses whether to affirm, modify or ‘vacate’ (effectively annul) the decision).

OSHA inspected G&J’s Franklin Furnace plant in July 2013 after noting higher than average illness or injury rates under its Site-Specific Targeting Program.

OSHA alleges five serious safety violations

Of five serious safety violations involving G&J under the citation, two involve failure to use lockout/tagout procedures while two others cover failure to perform hazard assessments related to personal protective equipment and failure to use appropriate protective equipment.

The final violation involved failure to perform annual fit testing to ensure staff wore respirators.

Two of the repeat safety violations involve failing to ensure staff use appropriate protective equipment when working with electrical sources and failing to implement lockout/tagout procedures.

These prevent the unintentional start-up of equipment when staff are most at risk – namely during maintenance and servicing.

G&J Pepsi-Cola Bottlers received the same two violations in 2009 at its Hamilton distribution facility; it has production sites in Lexington and Winchester, Kentucky, and Columbus and Portsmouth, Ohio.

The company has been going since 1925 and its portfolio includes Pepsi Cola, Diet Pepsi, Pepsi Max, Pepsi Next, Mountain Dew, Sierra Mist, Dr Pepper, AMP and Rockstar.

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