Manufacturing contractor hit with $283K fines for illegal workers, concealed injuries

A contractor that packaged candy and other products for Hershey Co. mistreated teenage immigrant workers and failed to report their injuries according to OSHA inspectors who dished out $283,000 in citations. 

Exel, Inc., hired hundreds of immigrant teenage workers at its Palmyra, PA, location as part of a state-run program designed to promote cultural exchange. Instead, OSHA says the company mistreated those employees by forcing them to work on fast-paced production lines and lift boxes weighing as much as 60 pounds.

The National Guestworker Alliance filed a complaint with the feds on behalf of the temporary workers, which prompted the OSHA visit.

Inspectors nailed Exel with nine citations, including six willful violations for workplace safety issues including failure to:

  • record injuries and illnesses on the OSHA 300 log for four years
  • evaluate the accuracy of the 300 logs before certifying them for three years, and
  • develop and implement an effective hearing conservation program.

Excel was also hit with three other-than-serious citations for recordkeeping violations.

OSHA head David Michaels said the logistics contractor was well aware of the recordkeeping laws and simply chose not to report the injuries.

“Nothing useful can be learned from an unrecorded injury,” Michaels said in a statement.

The agency also said Exel failed to report 42 specific injuries over a four-year period — 43% of all the injuries workers sustained in that time. The agency urged the company to revamp its manufacturing processes to improve ergonomics.

The issues at the Palmyra facility have prompted action from regulators, who are looking into abuses of specific immigrant worker programs. Specifically, more than 200 students walked out of the factory last summer over stressful, hazardous conditions.

SHS Staffing Solutions, which hired the immigrant workers for Exel, was hit with a $5,000 OSHA penalty for failure to provide training to employees on the lockout/tagout of energy sources.

The whole ordeal has hurt Hershey’s reputation, though a Hershey spokesperson told The New York Times he couldn’t comment on Exel’s actions or responses to the citations.


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