The operator of a specialty frozen pizza manufacturing plant in Illinois could have prevented the death of a 29-year-old sanitation worker by following proper machine safety procedures, a federal investigation has found.
Inspectors with the U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration learned the sanitation worker suffered fatal injuries while working on the overnight shift under the supervision of Miracapo Pizza Company at its Gurnee sheeting facility in December 2022.
OSHA inspectors determined the woman—a temporary worker provided by XCEL Staffing Solutions LLC in Waukegan—was using compressed air to clean a spiral conveyer as it moved to cool pizza when her head became caught in the machinery. The agency found that temporary workers had not been trained or given the authority to stop equipment from moving before cleaning.
The tragedy occurred just weeks after a November 2022 incident at the same facility in which a worker performing maintenance on a sauce depositor suffered an amputation, which led OSHA to assess Miracapo $290,191 in proposed penalties. In October 2021, another employee suffered the amputation of a fingertip while trying to clear a jammed pizza conveyor.
"This tragedy took the life of a young woman, and forever changes the lives of her family, friends and co-workers. Safety standards are put in place to prevent these kinds of tragedies," says Assistant Secretary for Occupational Safety and Health Doug Parker. "Employers have a responsibility to train workers in the language they understand so they know how to perform their work safely."
The December incident led OSHA to cite Miracapo Pizza Company—which also does business as Little Lady Foods—for 16 willful egregious violations, the agency's most severe; one willful violation; and 12 serious violations, including five serious instance-by-instance violations of two standards on different machines.
OSHA issued $2,812,658 in penalties and has placed the company in its Severe Violator Enforcement Program.
Specifically, inspectors identified the following failures and hazards:
- Deficient lockout/tagout procedures to isolate energy during service and maintenance. The company failed to establish and utilize proper procedures for controlling hazardous energy, provide locks to employees and train employees in a language they understood on how to lockout equipment such as dough mixers, ovens, sauce depositors, toppings and crust spiral devices.
- Lack of adequate machine guards on dough mixers and sprocket wheels and chains.
- Exposing employees working on dough mixers and an oven to fall hazards.
- Exposing workers to the risk of electrical hazards.
- Not ensuring adequate electrical personal protective equipment usage.
- Exposing workers to potential for eye injuries by failing to provide appropriate protection.
"Our investigations at Miracapo Pizza Company show why OSHA's regional emphasis program for the food manufacturing industry is so important, especially as we continue to find third-shift sanitation workers suffering injuries," adds OSHA Regional Administrator Bill Donovan in Chicago. "The program addresses common hazards particularly found in facilities like this one and educates employers on how following OSHA and industry-recognized safety standards can prevent more tragedies."
OSHA also issued a citation to GDI Services Inc.—a contractor that provides sanitation services to Miracapo Pizza Company—for two willful and two serious violations for failing to lock out equipment while cleaning food processing machines, failing to train workers in a language they understand on safety procedures, not providing hardware necessary to lockout or tagout equipment, and failing to provide effective information and training regarding hazardous chemicals.
The agency has assessed GDI Services with $334,839 in proposed penalties. The contractor provides third-shift sanitation crews sourced by Wilbro Management Service Inc. of Detroit to supply temporary workers, many of whom only speak Spanish.
Based in Elk Grove Village, Miracapo Pizza Company is a privately owned manufacturer providing specialty frozen pizzas for private label sales, national brands and a national convenience store chain under proprietary contracts. The company also maintains its own warehousing and transportation services. In the past decade, the company estimates baking more than one billion pizzas.Miracapo Pizza Company and GDI Services have 15 business days from receipt of the citations and penalties to comply, request an informal conference with OSHA's area director, or contest the findings before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.