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February 06, 2013
Health food manufacturer fails on worker safety; Repeat citations issued for lockout/tagout, guarding violations

The Maplegrove Gluten Free Foods bakery in Fontana produces more gluten-free pasta than any other manufacturer in North America, shipping the pasta to health conscious consumers on six continents.

Unfortunately, Maplegrove has not demonstrated the same concern for the safety of its workers as it has for the health of its customers, and Cal/OSHA has inspected the employer multiple times.

Repeat violations

Most recently, the Fontana facility was inspected in January 2012, after a worker was injured when he was caught in the unguarded chain-and-sprocket assembly in a spaghetti stripper machine. The worker did not de-energize the stripper before attempting to clear a jam.

Cal/OSHA previously cited Maplegrove in 2010, and after this latest incident, issued serious repeat citations for violations of:

GISO Section 3314(c). This section of Cal/OSHA's General Industry Safety Orders (GISO) lockout/tagout standard requires that workers be protected from unexpected movement or start-up of machinery during cleaning, servicing, and adjusting operations through the use of positive controls: shutting down the machine, disengaging the power source, and mechanically blocking or locking out potentially hazardous energy sources.

For failing to require that workers de-energize equipment, Cal/OSHA proposed a fine of $32,400.

GISO Section 4075(a). This section of Cal/OSHA's standards for gears and sprockets requires that "All gears, sprockets and sprocket chain drives located 7 feet or less above the floor or working level shall be guarded." The citation carries a proposed penalty of $32,400.

Steep penalties for repeat citations

Violations that are classified as "repeat" carry higher penalties than citations that are not. The first time a violation is cited as repeat, the penalty is doubled; the second time, it is quadrupled. The third time a violation is cited and classified as repeat, the penalty is multiplied by 10, up to a maximum of $70,000.

Employers cannot receive penalty reductions for good faith if a violation is classified as repeat.

Practice tip

An employer that commits a serious repeated or willful repeated violation of a crane standard, order, or special order that is found to have caused death or serious injury will be slapped with a nonadjustable penalty of $140,000.

Are you at risk of a repeat citation?

Cal/OSHA will classify a violation as repeat if you have corrected, or stated that you have corrected, an earlier cited violation, but you are found within 3 years after that citation to have committed the same violation again.

For employers with fixed establishments, repeat citations will only be cited at the same location (this is different from federal OSHA policy; that agency will cite violations at other locations of the same employer as repeat). For employers with no fixed establishments (such as construction employers), repeat violations will be issued if the condition was previously cited within the same Cal/OSHA region.

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