Chicago Tortilla Maker Hit with $163,350 Fine

November 10, 2004

The U.S. Labor Department’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has cited Tortilleria Atofonilco Inc., Chicago, following its investigation into a formal complaint about a worker who suffered an amputation injury on May 1, 2004.

“Strong enforcement is a key part of this Administration’s efforts to reduce workplace injuries and illnesses,” said U.S. Secretary of Labor Elaine Chao. “The significant penalty of $163,350 in this case demonstrates our commitment to protecting the health and safety of American workers.”

OSHA issued citations for alleged willful and serious violations of workplace health and safety standards. A willful health citation was issued for exposing workers to noise levels in excess of federal standards and failure to provide hearing protection, training and baseline audiograms to test for possible hearing loss. Willful safety violations include the failure of Tortilleria Atotonilco to ensure that maintenance workers were protected against accidental energizing of machines, a problem that has resulted in amputations on several occasions at the plant.

Alleged serious safety violations included die cutter and dough machines that were unguarded to protect against amputations, failing to use flexible cords without splice or tap and using compressed air for cleaning at more than 30 pounds per square inch of pressure.

Willful violations are those committed with an intentional disregard or plain indifference to the requirements of the Occupational Safety and Health Act. A serious citation is issued when there is substantial probability that death or serious physical harm could result from a hazard about which the employer knew or should have known.

The company employs some 100 workers at the Chicago location and more than 175 company-wide. Two previous OSHA inspections in April and June 2000 resulted in serious violations in hearing conservation, machine guarding failures, and lockout/tagout deficiencies.

Tortilleria Atofonilco Inc., has 15 working days from receipt of the citations to appeal before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.

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