AUGUSTA – Safety officials levied $150,000 in fines against a Turner egg farm Tuesday, claiming workers were forced to work in and on a building that partially collapsed under snow.

The action is directed at Maine Contract Farming, an affiliate of DeCoster egg farms, one of the largest producers of eggs in New England.

William Coffin, Maine’s area director with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, said his office investigated a complaint stemming from a Feb. 16 incident at the farm. According to the investigators, Maine Contract Farming workers were forced onto the roof of a partially collapsed egg-processing building to remove snow and ice, and inside the building to retrieve eggs and brace the roof trusses, without assessing the soundness of the building first.

“It’s pretty obvious that’s something you don’t do,” Coffin said. “They were lucky no one was seriously injured or worse. Any darn fool should have been aware of the danger.”

Bob Leclerc, compliance officer at the farm, said the company is meeting with officials in Augusta to discuss the action and decide whether to formally contest the fines. He said the citation was just received Friday and he hasn’t had time to determine the company’s specific objections.

“But we’ve put them on notice,” he said. “We’ll have a heart-to-heart with them.”

The egg farm has 15 working days after the citation to file a formal response.

Coffin said OSHA was notified of the situation by U.S. Department of Agriculture workers who were at the farm to inspect and grade eggs and would not go on the site of the damaged building.

“They observed the conditions,” Coffin said. “They saw people working in the building and on the roof.”

OSHA followed up by interviewing workers and managers at the farm. The agency determined workers were in danger of being struck by falling pieces of roof, walls and framing, and that the workers on the roof were in danger of falling 22 feet.

It assessed fines of $140,000 for those two types of hazards. An additional $10,000 in fines was levied because the farm did not determine the weight-bearing capacity of other buildings’ roofs, nor did it remove accumulations of snow and ice from those roofs. Also, some employees using farm trucks weren’t wearing seat belts, according to the action.

The egg farm covers more than 1,600 acres in seven separate complexes and supports more than 3.5 million hens, Leclerc said.

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