On Sept. 20, 2018, Enrique Vasquez Garcia went to work and never returned home.
The 18-year-old Aardvark Clay & Supplies Inc. worker was fatally injured when he became caught in the mixing blades of an unguarded pug mill.
“Pug mills have rotating blades that can cause amputations and fatally injure employees,” said Cal/OSHA Chief Juliann Sum in a statement. “Employers must ensure all machinery and its parts are properly guarded, and employees are effectively trained to prevent tragic accidents like this.”
Santa Ana, Calif.-based Aardvark Clay & Supplies uses industrial pug mills to manufacture and mix clay. Garcia became fatally entangled in the clay manufacturing machine when he tried to identify why the clay stopped traveling through the extruder.
Cal/OSHA investigators discovered that the mill's safety guards had been removed from the industrial mixer and Garcia had not received training on the machine before the accident.
The agency also found that all four of the shop’s pug mills had unguarded openings, which exposed workers to the moving parts. Safety regulations require mixers to have a cover to prevent employees’ hands from entering the machine during operation, Cal/OSHA states.
Although Aardvark had provided safety guards for the mills, the employer removed the guards. At one point, fabricated guards were added to the machines but were later removed when the employer believed they interfered with the rate of production, Cal/OSHA discovered.
Aardvark Clay & Supplies also failed to effectively train workers on the hazards involved with operating the machinery and did not identify or correct the hazards.
Cal/OSHA fined the company $250,160 in proposed penalties for its willful failure to properly guard equipment and to train its workers. In total, five violations were issued: one willful-serious accident-related, one willful-serious, two serious and one general.
The willful-serious violations were cited for the Aardvark’s failure to guard machine openings and points of operation. The serious violations identify hazards from the unguarded cutting portion of the clay machine and failure of the employer’s safety program to identify unsafe conditions, implement corrective procedures and effectively train employees on work-related hazards.