Workplace fatality: An elderly worker was killed in a meat grinder at the Central Valley Meat Company in Hanford.
• A 72-year-old man was cleaning a meat grinder at a meat processing plant when someone else flipped a switch and turned on the machine.
• The man was killed. His body was found inside the machine.
• Cal/OSHA had investigated two meat grinder accidents at the same plant during the past several years. The company has been fined for not having proper lockouts on the grinders.
Kings County Sheriff’s office commander Robert Thayer told KMJ that 72-year-old Leopoldo Gutierrez of Hanford was cleaning a meat grinder when somebody else flipped the switch and turned on the machine.
“When they did that, they heard an unfamiliar sound. Investigators found the victim down in the machine. The death was instantaneous,” Thayer said.
According to KMPH News, Central Valley Meat general manager Brian Coelho issued the following statement:
“Despite all safety precautions there was an unforeseen tragic accident at our plant earlier today. An employee was killed while cleaning a batching machine. The circumstances are being fully investigated. We have no further comment at this time.”
The Kings County Sheriff’s Office will forward its findings to the California Division of Occupational Safety and Health (Cal/OSHA).
Cal/OSHA spokesperson Krisann Chasarik said the meat processing plant already has been investigated for two previous accidents involving meat grinders, according to a San Jose Mercury News report.
The most recent accident was less than three months ago (December 2010), when a worker caught her hand in the grinder and suffered a partial amputation. That accident is still under investigation. Prior to that, in November 2004, a worker who was cleaning a meat grinder accidentally turned on the machine but was able to switch it off before getting sucked inside. The company paid a $1,100 fine for failing to properly lock out the device in that case, Chasarik said.
OSHA regulations require all potentially hazardous equipment to be “stopped, isolated from all potentially hazardous energy sources and locked out before employees perform any servicing or maintenance where the unexpected energization or start-up of the machine or equipment or release of stored energy could cause injury.”
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