Here’s proof that when an employee is killed on the job, state and federal officials will probably keep a close watch on the company where it happened, not only for safety violations, but also for its other business practices.
Erasmo Ponce, the owner of a tortilla factory in Brooklyn, NY, where a worker died after falling into a mixing machine, was arrested on various charges including not having workers’ comp insurance.
Ponce is also charged with underpaying employees, falsifying business records and violating unemployment insurance law. A complaint filed by the state’s attorney general includes 26 felony and 23 misdemeanor counts. The owner of Tortilleria Chinantla was arraigned and released without bail.
On Jan. 24, 2011, Juan Baten, a worker at the factory, died after falling into a large dough mixing machine. Baten was crushed in the machine’s churning mechanism.
Inspectors from the New York state Workers’ Compensation Board issued a stop-work order to the factory several days after the fatality because the business had been without workers’ comp insurance since March 28, 2010. It wasn’t the first time the business had let the insurance lapse. The tortilla factory eventually reopened.
OSHA issued one willful, six serious and one other-than-serious violation to Tortilleria Chinantla for a total of $62,400 in fines. The violations included not guarding the mixer where Baten was working to prevent employees from coming into contact with points of operation. OSHA says the company has contested the citations and the matter is still pending.