Friday, July 15, 2011

Gray Ridge in trouble - again

Gray Ridge Egg Farms is in trouble with the Ontario Ministry of Labour – again.

This time the plant in Strathroy was shut down until safety guards were put in place.  Inspectors found a similar situation at Burnbrae Farms egg-grading facility in Strathroy and temporarily shut it down.

Scott Brookshaw of Gray Ridge is not returning my call, but is reported saying he suspects an employee filed a complaint with the Ministry of Labour, prompting the inspection that identified the infractions.

Brookshaw is skirting on the edge of regulations which carry sanctions for those who threaten or intimidate employees who provide information to federal or provincial inspection services.  The ministry may also be investigating a Gray Ridge requirement that all employees sign a confidentiality agreement when the new company was formed. The former company was L.H. Gray & Son Ltd.

There is a news report that this was the 15th infraction within the last two years at Gray Ridge facilities at Strathroy and Listowel.  There were other citations before that.

“We’ve been running for how many years and it’s (the guarding) never been an issue,” Brookshaw told a reporter for another publication. With the problem fixed, “we’ve been running ever since, so not sure if there’s much of a story there.”

In fact, the ministry ordered additional guards on egg packers after further inspections July 8 and 12 and issued a number of additional orders.

A ministry official said there have been orders issued about unsafe racking and some about other issues.  An informant says some of those other orders relate to sexual and physical harassment of workers, including one incident of knife thrown by one worker at another.

Brookshaw told a reporter he’s aware that the company has had “the odd little thing” that has come up but the June order was the first on the company’s machinery. In fact, according to a well-informed source, there have been issues with the grading machines since 2007, including a recommendation that an engineering study be done on the grading machines.

“We have a very good rating with WSIB (Workplace Safety and Insurance Board) so our workers are pretty safe,” Brookshaw said, adding that ministry representatives recently complimented the company on its policies and procedures for its Strathroy and Listowel plants. If people don’t think a working environment is safe, they don’t tend to stay, he adds. “Our turnover on our long term staff is very minimal.”

In fact more than 120 people have left since 2007 and more than 25 are on permanent disability. Gray Ridge has been ranked “high risk” because of injuries.