OSHA Slams Tortilla Makers Following Worker's Death in Mixing Machine

Juan Batten, a 22-year-old Guatemalan immigrant, died when he became caught in the auger of a mixing machine. OSHA's inspection found that the mixer was not guarded to prevent employees from coming into contact with its points of operation.

OSHA has cited three Brooklyn, New York, tortilla manufacturers for a total of 34 alleged violations of workplace safety and health standards following inspections conducted in the wake of the January death of a worker at Tortilleria Chinantla Inc.

Juan Batten, a 22-year-old Guatemalan immigrant, died when he became caught in the auger of a mixing machine. OSHA's inspection found that the mixer was not guarded to prevent employees from coming into contact with its points of operation.

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

In addition to other machine guarding hazards identified during the inspection, Tortilleria Chinantla lacked a hazardous energy control program to prevent the unintended startup of machinery, a chemical hazard communication program, and the required training for operators of powered industrial trucks. The company also failed to record the worker's death on its illness and injury log. As a result, Tortilleria Chinantla was cited for one willful, six serious and one other-than-serious violation, carrying a total of $62,400 in proposed fines.

Separately, and in response to reports of possible hazards, OSHA also inspected two other tortilla manufacturers: Buena Vista Tortillas Corp. and La Tortilleria Mexicana Los Tres Hermanos Corp. Buena Vista Tortillas was cited for 13 serious and one other-than-serious violation with $39,000 in proposed fines for machine guarding, electrical, lockout/tagout, fire extinguisher, exit route, hazard communication, and fall hazards. La Tortilleria Mexicana Los Tres Hermanos was cited for 12 serious violations with $33,600 in proposed fines for machine guarding, electrical, exit route, powered industrial truck, and formaldehyde hazards.

"What is particularly disturbing is that we found a number of similar hazards at all three facilities," Gee said. "While no fatalities have occurred at the other locations, I call upon these and other similar employers to review their workplaces to identify and eliminate hazards."

"Safeguarding workers against occupational injuries and illnesses depends in great part on ensuring that workers know and understand the hazards and safeguards associated with their jobs. That is especially important in workplaces where English may not be the employees' primary language," said Diana Cortez, OSHA's regional diverse workforce coordinator. "Employers must provide information and training in a way their workers will understand. OSHA has numerous resources available for Spanish-speaking workers and employers. I encourage both groups to seek out this vital information online or in person."

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