Sugar Plant Removed Safety Device 13 Days Before Fatal Accident
The worker who died at a Bucks County sugar plant — after he was buried alive by sugar —would have been saved by a safety device, but that device was removed 13 days before his death. Why? A manager believed it was slowing down production.
Jose Salinas, 50, was bagging sugar for a company that supplies Snapple and Ben & Jerry’s at the Fairless Hills plant in February. Because large clumps of sugar were clogging the hopper, workers had to enter it to break it up with shovels. Salinas, a native of Peru living in New Jersey, disappeared. Workers didn’t realize he was buried in the sugar until they noticed his jeans at the bottom of the hopper.
An investigation by ProPublica and Univision found that every worker at the Bucks County plant, run by CSC Sugar, was a temp worker. Even the managers were temips. The warehouse manager had complained to OSHA about the dangers of being engulfed by sugar, but the plant manager said “we can’t do that.” The company eventually relented, but got rid of the screen two weeks before Salinas’ death.
The report continues:
Around the same time, the plant had a near miss when a worker started to slide into sugar while unclogging the hopper. That worker was able to get to the side in time, the report said. Despite that scare, the screen was never put back on.
The plant manager leading up to the accident told OSHA he was unaware of the problems and didn’t know the screen had been removed. “However, statements by employees indicated he had directed its removal,” OSHA investigators wrote in their report.
CSC Sugar, which had been fined before for failing to properly train temp workers at another plant, was fined $25,855. It was later reduced to $18,098.