The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) cited the four companies that took over the DeCoster Egg Farm's business in Turner, Maine, for safety and health violations. The companies are facing penalties totaling $344,810.

A total of 27 alleged violations of OSHA's safety and health standards were delivered to Maine AG, Maine Contract Farming, PFS Loading Services Inc. and Turner Maintenance & Services Inc. Maine Contract Farming was also cited for four alleged willful violations.

"I am committed to protecting workers and promoting safe workplaces. Companies need to make safety their number one priority," said Secretary of Labor Elaine L. Chao. "While these companies have made some strides in addressing previously cited hazards, it's important that they continue to work to protect their workers."

OSHA initiated inspections last December at the four facilities to determine compliance with previously cited hazards. As a result of those follow-up inspections, OSHA issued citations against the firms for unguarded equipment, defective eye wash stations, hazardous electrical equipment, uninspected fire extinguishers, exposed asbestos, unsafe roof structures, unsanitary shower facilities, fall hazards and unmarked floor jacks.

Four alleged willful violations were issued to Maine Contract Farming for exposing workers to the dangers of collapsing buildings. The egg farm, which contains multiple-barn complexes designed to house its chickens, has an extensive history of roof collapses caused by improperly installed roof trusses - the most recent collapse occurred in January 1999. The alleged willful violations carry a total penalty of $280,000.

The remainder of the citations issued included: five alleged serious violations with proposed penalties of $5,410; 12 alleged repeat violations carrying $59,400 in proposed penalties; and six other-than-serious violations with no assessed penalties.

"We're going to continue to work with these firms to ensure that their employees are protected," said OSHA Administrator John Henshaw. "But we will not hesitate to wield a strong enforcement arm when employers refuse to fix identified hazards while continually placing their workers in danger."