The operator of a specialty frozen pizza manufacturing plant in Illinois could have prevented the death of a 29-year-old sanitation worker by following proper machine safety procedures, a federal investigation has found.
Inspectors with the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration learned the sanitation worker suffered fatal injuries while working on the overnight shift under the supervision of Miracapo Pizza Company at its Gurnee, Illinois sheeting facility in December 2022.
OSHA inspectors determined the woman — a temporary worker provided by XCEL Staffing Solutions LLC in Waukegan — was using compressed air to clean a spiral conveyer as it moved to cool pizza when her head became caught in the machinery. The agency found that temporary workers had not been trained or given the authority to stop equipment from moving before cleaning.
The tragedy occurred just weeks after a November 2022 incident at the same facility in which a worker performing maintenance on a sauce depositor suffered an amputation, which led OSHA to assess Miracapo $290,191 in proposed penalties. In October 2021, another employee suffered the amputation of a fingertip while trying to clear a jammed pizza conveyor.
“This tragedy took the life of a young woman, and forever changes the lives of her family, friends and co-workers. Safety standards are put in place to prevent these kinds of tragedies,” said Assistant Secretary for Occupational Safety and Health Doug Parker. “Employers have a responsibility to train workers in the language they understand so they know how to perform their work safely.”
The December incident led OSHA to cite Miracapo Pizza Company — which also does business as Little Lady Foods — for 16 willful egregious violations, the agency’s most severe; one willful violation; and 12 serious violations, including five serious instance-by-instance violations of two standards on different machines.
OSHA issued $2,812,658 in penalties and has placed the company in its Severe Violator Enforcement Program.
This article was first published in Insurance Journal.