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OSHA issues multiple violations to noncompliant Brooklyn tortilla factory

In January, our workers' compensation defense blog reported on a rather tragic story involving an employee who was killed in a workplace accident at a Brooklyn-based tortilla company.

According to reports, Juan B., a 22-year-old employee from Guatemala, was killed when he fell into an industrial dough mixer at the Tortilleria Chinantla and became caught in the machine's massive churning instruments.

In recent developments, officials with the Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) officially completed their investigation into the incident last month, issuing Tortilleria Chinantla eight citations totaling more than $62,000 for various workplace safety violations.

Six of these OSHA citations were for "serious" violations, meaning "there [was a] substantial probability that death or serious physical harm could result from a hazard about which the employer knew or should have known."

One of the other citations was for a "willful" violation, meaning it was "committed with intentional knowing or voluntary disregard for the law's requirements, or with plain indifference to worker safety and health."

Willful violations are the most serious type of violation handed down by OSHA and are punishable by a fine of $42,000.

Here, the serious violation stemmed from the failure of Tortilleria Chinantla to install a guard rail/barrier to protect workers from falling into the industrial dough mixer.

"Proper and effective machine guarding would have eliminated this hazard and prevented this young worker's death," said Kay Gee, OSHA's regional director for Brooklyn, Manhattan, and Queens. "This was a clearly recognizable hazard that should have been addressed."

The owner of Tortilleria Chinantla has implemented the necessary safety measures at the factory since the accident and plans to appeal the fines.

It is worth noting that OSHA conducted inspections of two other New York-area tortilla factories and discovered nearly identical workplace safety violations.

Stay tuned for further developments in the area of workers' compensation defense law ...

If you are a California employer facing a real problem - prospective OSHA fine, prosecution, an employee injury or litigation - there are steps that can be taken to minimize the consequences. In these difficult circumstances, you may want to consider consulting with an experienced legal professional.

This post was provided for informational purposes only and is not to be construed as legal advice. (Names have been withheld to protect the identity of the deceased.)

Related Resources:

The New York Times "Safety agency cites tortilla company where worker died" July 29, 2011

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