Oregon Bakery Fined $6,240 After Worker Trapped in Dough

The owners of a Franz Bakery where a worker nearly suffocated after he was trapped face down in a giant trough of dough have been fined $6,240 for safety violations.

Oregon Occupational Safety and Health Division investigators found five “serious” violations of workplace safety rules after the Oct. 2 industrial accident that left Bryan Byrne, 53, in critical condition. He spent more than a week in the intensive care unit at Sacred Heart Medical Center.

Byrne’s daughter, Jessica, declined to comment Wednesday on the OSHA report. She said her father is back at home in Springfield and doing well. He’s been undergoing cognitive and occupational therapy and “just making massive strides,” she said.

The Franz Bakery, which employs about 200 workers, is owned by U.S. Bakery/Franz Family Bakeries in Portland.

Todd Cornwell, vice president and general manager of the company’s Oregon bakeries, said the company does not plan to contest the fine.

Cornwell said the plant had just opened last summer so managers were still working on training orders for the new equipment when the accident occurred.

“What (OSHA) presented wasn’t anything we didn’t discover on our own,” he said.

The accident occurred when Byrne was in the humidifying room, where a mixture of flour, yeast and water known as a sponge slowly rises in large troughs while moving along a conveyor. As the sponge rises and fills with gases, it needs to be punctured or punched down to keep it from overtopping the trough.

The $42 million bakery, which opened last July, was equipped with air jets that were supposed to puncture the sponge automatically. But the system wasn’t working correctly, so workers were required to beat the sponge down manually with their hands or paddles.

Byrne was working on the dough when the conveyor started up automatically, moving the entire line forward, pinning him face down in the sponge under a Plexiglas shield that served as a curtain between the humidifying room and the main room of the bakery.

Workers noticed his legs and torso sticking out from the trough, but were unable to move the trough to extricate him. They unbolted the window and released him, but he was pinned for more than 12 minutes, during which time, the report said, he was “in an oxygen deficient atmosphere.”

OSHA investigators found that the humidifying room had no walkways or safe areas for worker foot traffic.

The most serious violation, for which U.S. Bakery was fined $5,000, was a failure to properly train and supervise employees who were required to work in the humidifier room when the automated system was shut down, according to the Oregon OSHA report.