Employee dies in conveyor accident at Smithfield Foods Plant

TAR HEEL — According to several sources, an industrial accident claimed the life of a mechanic at a Smithfield Foods plant in Tar Heel on Tuesday after he became trapped in a piece of machinery, several local news organizations reported.

The victim, identified as 55-year-old Michael Jessup, was fatally injured while he was on a scissor lift performing repair work on a conveyor belt, Leland-based news broadcaster WWAY reported. Emergency personnel were called to the Tar Heel facility at about 3:30 p.m., and officials pronounced the man dead at the scene as a result of trauma to the head.

“The employee was struck in the head by a cylinder while trying to remove a bent wheel from a chain drive. The employee switched the airline hoses to relieve pressure from the chain when the employee was stuck,” N.C. Department of Labor spokesperson Mary Katherine Revels said in a statement to The Fayetteville Observer.

Smithfield said it plans to investigate the worker’s death. North Carolina’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is also looking into the incident.

Jessup was an employee of Smithfield for about a decade, reports said.

The plant appears to have a history of safety violations in recent years. A search of inspection records on the U.S. Department of Labor’s OSHA website reveals 11 entries over the past five years.