A worker at a Pennsylvania sugar plant died buried alive in sugar in an accident that could have been prevented by a safety device removed just 13 days earlier, a ProPublica investigation finds. Janio Salinas—a 50-year-old who, like every other employee in the CSC Sugar warehouse in Fairless Hills, was a temp worker—died after climbing inside a huge hopper to remove sugar clogs on February 25, 2013. The warehouse manager told the Occupational Safety and Health Administration that he had asked for a safety screen to prevent such an accident, but after one was installed, the plant manager decided to get rid of it because it was slowing down production. The Bucks County Courier Times reports that with the screen, sugar clumps had to be broken up every 30 to 40 minutes; without it, clogs only occurred two or three times a shift.
Another worker nearly met the same fate soon after the screen was removed, but it wasn't replaced despite the near-miss, investigators found. The death at the plant that supplies the makers of Snapple drinks and Ben & Jerry's ice cream was one of numerous gruesome deaths that spurred OSHA to boost enforcement of rules affecting temp workers, who face a much greater risk of being killed or injured on the job than other workers, ProPublica notes. Before Salinas died early last year, there had been no reports of violations at the sugar plant, which was fined $25,855 by OSHA after the accident. After the plant installed a new safety device, the fine was cut to $18,098. (Read more National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health stories.)