Do government agencies offer ‘assistance’ to major corporations, helping them to protect their billions? The OSHA inspection of the Mars Pet Food facility in Joplin, MO certainly seems to indicate that.
From the Mars website: “Headquartered in Brussels, Belgium, Mars Petcare is one of the world’s leading pet care providers and employs more than 33,000 Associates across 50 countries. Forty-two brands in total, including three billion-dollar brands – PEDIGREE® WHISKAS® and ROYAL CANIN®. Other leading brands include: KITEKAT®, BANFIELD®, CESAR®, NUTRO®, SHEBA®, CHAPPI®, CATSAN®, FROLIC®, PERFECT FIT® and GREENIES®.” Annual revenue for 2016 was “$17,224,400,000.00”.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is the federal agency tasked “to assure safe and healthful working conditions for working men and women by setting and enforcing standards and by providing training, outreach, education and assistance.” It is clear OSHA did not “assure safe and healthful working conditions” for employees of the Mars pet food plant in Joplin, MO.
Through Freedom of Information Act request, 164 pages of documents regarding the investigation of the Mars pet food plant in Joplin, MO were provided by OSHA. Compared to the 1,136 pages provided by sister federal agency National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) on the same incident(s) – OSHA provided very little information. Why? Because OSHA did very little (to nothing) to assure the Mars employees “safe and healthful working conditions”.
Employees of the Mars Petcare plant first contacted OSHA on July 18th, 2012. The original complaint taken by OSHA inspector Melvin McCrary clearly documented the severity of the employees complaint.
Of significance in this initial employee report:
- Date of this initial report 7/18/12
- “Employees have been provided with phosphine gas monitors which go off, but the employees are still allowed or required to remain in the area.”
- “Phosphine levels as high as 1.4 have been registered on the monitors (and documented, but not forensically).”
With regards to the phosphine levels in the pet food plant, the employees provided OSHA with this picture as evidence:
The above personal phosphine monitor alarms when a reading of 0.2 ppm is reached. Per federal law – and OSHA requirements on phosphine – 0.3 ppm is the maximum level an employee can be exposed to; “OSHA Permissible Exposure Limit (PEL) for General Industry – 0.3 ppm”. When a level of 0.3 is reached on the meter – per law, the area should be evacuated because employees are at risk. Employees of this Mars pet food plant provided OSHA with proof conditions at the plant were very dangerous, monitor readings (such as the very high 1.4 above), and shared they are “required” to remain working in toxic conditions.
Melvin McCrary of OSHA stated this was a “Valid Complaint” – classified it as “Serious”.
I have had several conversations with Mr. McCrary (the OSHA investigator who took the above initial complaint). While he took the original complaint from Mars employees, his agency did NOT assign him to do the actual investigation. He has stated he “set up the investigation” properly, noting the serious conditions – other OSHA investigators should have followed his lead. But…that did not happen. Mr. McCrary has specifically stated to me “OSHA blew it” and stated OSHA “should be held accountable.”
How did OSHA fail the Mars employees?
Five days after the original ‘valid’ ‘serious’ employee complaint was taken – 7/23/12 – OSHA inspector Brenda Garcia performed an inspection at the Joplin Mars pet food plant. Below are notes provided in the FOIA request of her ‘to do’ list when arriving at the plant:
The first item on her “ask for” list for Mars was “sampling results for phosphine”. Mars provided every other item on the ‘ask for’ list except this. The FOIA documents provided no “sampling results for phosphine” other than what was provided by the employees (picture above). There was no other mention on any OSHA document of “sampling results for phosphine” other than this note. Sampling results for phosphine would have been clear evidence serious risk to employees existed. But somehow – the government agency specifically charged with protecting employees neglected to obtain this evidence from Mars. As reminder, sister federal agency NIOSH asked for the same documents and were provided with phosphine monitor records ranging from “0 and 5.85 ppm”.
Below the ‘ask for’ section on Ms. Garcia’s notes mentions “phosphine SOP”. SOP stands for Standard Operating Procedure. Law requires companies to have established ‘standard operating procedures’ for any known risk – including phosphine. Through these Freedom of Information Act documents, we learn that Mars Petcare did not have a ‘standard operating procedure’ for phosphine as required by law. This in itself should have resulted in a OSHA fine of Mars. Instead – Mars was allowed to write the document after the employee complaint initiated inspection. The document wasn’t written until 4 days after this inspection.
OSHA did not issue a penalty or fine for Mars not having required documents. (MOJ SOP above stands for Missouri Joplin Standard Operating Procedure.)
There is no evidence in the OSHA documents that Ms. Garcia interviewed any employees at the mill room (above ‘notes’ image second item under arrow).
There is no evidence in the OSHA documents that Mars provided a “emergency procedure for phosphine overexposure” (above ‘notes’ image third item under arrow).
In fact, very little was done by the government agency whose task it is to assure employees have “safe and healthful working conditions”. The same date the investigation marked “Serious” was opened (7/23/12) – it was closed.
“Flag as Candidate for Follow-Up: No.”
Even though the cased was marked “closed” on “7/23/12” – two days later Mars Petcare emailed OSHA’s Brenda Garcia. The email mostly provided documents that Ms. Garcia must have requested during the 7/23 inspection (though was never documented in any of her notes). And then there was this statement at the very bottom of the Mars email…
The investigation was marked “closed”. There was no record in the FOIA documents that OSHA requested follow up “sampling” – Ms. Garcia’s report specifically stated “No” follow up. If “sampling” was needed, why wasn’t it done on day of inspection? Instead…someone decided that “sampling” would be beneficial at a later date. Beneficial to who? The employees or Mars?
The Mars manager stated he was “working on getting” a date for the sampling. His official excuse was “we are getting less rail due to shortages”. Within the documents obtained from OSHA was the following Mars record keeping of rail cars of ingredients received under fumigation for one week of recent production (the week prior to inspection)…
Using only the entries with dates…
7/13/12: 3 corn, 2 meat and bone meal rail cars received.
7/16/12: 3 corn, 1 meat and bone meal rail cars received.
7/17/12: 3 corn, 1 meat and bone meal rail cars received.
7/18/12: 3 corn rail cars received.
7/19/12: 1 corn, 1 meat and bone meal rail cars received.
7/20/12: 4 corn rail cars received.
Does this look like a “shortage” of rail cars? Every single week day multiple rail cars were received. Rail cars were at the plant on the 7/23 day of inspection, Ms. Garcia’s notes taken that day even included this drawing of a rail car…
Even though the OSHA case was marked “closed”, tagged for “No” further follow up, even though rail cars were at the plant on the day of inspection – OSHA complied with the Mars suggestion and returned to the pet food plant on the suggested date of July 31, 2012 to perform ‘sampling tests’ – air sampling tests to detect for phosphine.
For consideration: a clean air sampling test would have provided Mars with a means to silence concerned employees.
A former employee of the Mars plant – not part of the lawsuit that was filed, settled, and evidence sealed against the company – told me his job at the plant was to order all rail car shipments. But – he did NOT order the rail cars for this OSHA air sampling. He stated “Cliff Beal” ordered the rail cars that OSHA would ‘air sample’ (‘Cliff Beal’ is the Mars manager in the email provided above). It has been shared by multiple employees – these two “special” rail cars were never treated with phospine. It has been shared that this was a “staged” OSHA air sampling – the rail cars were completely free of phosphine treatment. Two rail cars of grain completely free of phosphine pesticide would apparently guarantee Mars a clean air sampling test, silencing employees.
From the deposition of Joey Tyree – the pesticide company employee who ‘cleared’ phosphine treated rail cars at Mars (Sam mentioned below was his boss) (Questions are from attorney, answers are sworn testimony of Joey Tyree):
Q. Okay. And what did Sam tell you at that time?
A. Basically, you know, we’re gonna go do two rail cars and they’re going to be at MARS and OSHA’s gonna be there and we’ll take our Drager, we’ll take our respirator and we’ll take all the stuff we need and go down there and do it.
Q. And that meeting took place after they knew — Sam knew that OSHA was coming on the 31st of July, 2012, correct?
Q. So you had no monitoring devices available to you in your truck, your Presto-X truck during 2006, ‘7, ‘8, ‘9, ’10, 2011 when you were doing monitoring and aeration of rail cars at MARS?
Q. And tell us how the 31st of July played out. How did you happen to know what time to go to the MARS plant?
A. Sam knew. I mean, Sam was there, so he just — I don’t remember the exact time, when it was, but he knew when to be there, and that — we showed up there and did ’em and ..
Not only did Mars appear to schedule the OSHA air sampling, Mars appeared to have scheduled a text book perfect presentation for OSHA on the proper phosphine clearing of rail cars for July 31, 2012. (Click Here to read more on these depositions.)
The air samples taken that day (7/31/12) were shipped to a U.S. Department of Labor laboratory for analysis the next day (8/1/12):
However…the “chain of custody” information shows the samples were not tested until 7 weeks later…
“Received in Lab – 8/22/2012” – 3 weeks after shipment. “Received by Analysis – September 21, 2012” – 7 weeks after shipment.
No document provided in the OSHA Freedom of Information Act request explains how/why laboratory analysis performed on a “Valid” employee complaint classified as “Serious” would take 7 weeks to complete.
The results of this testing?
To no surprise: “Sample results were below the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s (OSHA) permissible exposure limits for Phosphine.”
The above letter was signed by Brenda Garcia “for” her boss.
To read part one in this series of articles, Click Here. More to come.
Wishing you and your pet(s) the best,
What’s in Your Pet’s Food?
Is your dog or cat eating risk ingredients? Chinese imports? Petsumer Report tells the ‘rest of the story’ on over 4,000 cat foods, dog foods, and pet treats. 30 Day Satisfaction Guarantee. Click Here to preview Petsumer Report. www.PetsumerReport.com
The 2017 List
Susan’s List of trusted pet foods. Click Here
Have you read Buyer Beware? Click Here
Cooking pet food made easy, Dinner PAWsible
Find Healthy Pet Foods in Your Area Click Here