A Santa Ana ceramic manufacturing company has been issued more than $250,000 in fines after an 18-year-old employee was killed while getting entangled in a clay machine that lacked safety guards. According to a news report in The Orange County Register, the Department of Industrial Relations (DIR) said the safety guards on the industrial mixer, also known as a pug mill, had been removed from the machine and the employee had not been trained to use at the time of the incident, which occurred on Sept. 20, 2018.
Lack of Machine Safety Guards
Firefighters were called to Aardvark Clay & Supplies on East Pomona Street. The man, identified as Enrique Vasquez Garcia, was found in the machine by another employee who called for help. Garcia was pronounced dead at the scene. An investigation by the DIR said Garcia was standing next to the machine where the mixer feeds the extruder when his arm was caught by the blades and he was pulled into the machine.
Cal/OSHA’s investigation has found that all four of the shop’s pug mills had unguarded openings, leaving employees exposed to moving parts. It further found that the employer removed the guards. The report states that at one point, fabricated guards were added to the machines, but were later removed when the employer believed they interfered with the rate of production. The $250,160 in fines cover five violations including the company’s failure to guard the cutting portions and openings of the machine and for not providing proper training to employees to identify unsafe conditions.
Responsibility to Protect Workers
Moving machine parts have the potential to cause severe workplace injuries such as crushed fingers or hands, amputations, burn injuries or even loss of vision. Safeguards are essential for protecting workers from these preventable injuries. According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), any machine part, function, or process that may cause injury must be safeguarded. When the operation of a machine or accidental contact end up injuring the operator or others in the vicinity, the hazards must be eliminated or controlled.
If you or a loved one has been injured in a workplace accident, or if you have lost a loved one, it is important that you understand your rights. Employers have a duty to ensure that employees have a safe and healthy work environment. An experienced Orange County workplace accident lawyer may be able to inform injured workers and their families regarding their legal rights and options.