Food company faces felony charges for death of worker (3/28)
Paul Seay, 63, of Ceres, Calif., was killed Feb. 5, 2007, when a stack of dense cardboard fell on him while he worked at Seneca's plant in Modesto, Calif. The cannery processes fruit grown in the Northern San Joaquin Valley.
Cal-OSHA fined Seneca $95,000 for two violations stemming from the accident. The Stanislaus County district attorney's office filed a criminal complaint against the company last month, with a preliminary hearing set for April 7.
No individuals are named in the case; the company at-large is charged with a felony violation of a section of the California labor code.
According to the Cal-OSHA report, a security guard heard a loud noise in a warehouse at the plant on the weekend before the accident. When the guard went to investigate, he found that three bundles of cardboard used for fruit packaging had fallen into one of the warehouse aisles. Each bundle of cardboard is about 4 feet tall and weighs 515 pounds.
The security guard documented the problem and reported that a nearby stack of corrugate in the aisle was "teetering" and appeared ready to fall, according to the report. He alerted supervisors.
The following Monday morning, the plant's supervisor of shipping told Seay, who worked as a material and fiber handler, to clean up the fallen debris from the aisle, according to the report.
As Seay was cleaning up the scattered cardboard, the report said, the bundles of leaning corrugate that were documented by the guard a couple of days earlier collapsed onto him.
Seay’s chest was crushed when the cardboard stacked on wooden pallets pinned him for an unknown length of time, according to the Stanislaus County coroner's office.
Other employees did not see the accident, but they found Seay and tried to resuscitate him.
Seay had worked at the cannery for 45 years.
Cal-OSHA concluded that two factors likely led to Seay's death: the corrugate material not being stacked properly, and supervisors failing to keep workers out of an "immediate hazardous area."
The safety agency can refer cases to local prosecutors. Cal-OSHA has prosecuted about one-third of all willful violations of workplace safety laws resulting in death between 1990 and 2003.