April fatality at Purina Mills plant near Halfway ruled accidental

June 24, 2011|By DAN DEARTH |
  • Scene of an industrial accident in April at the Purina Mills plant on Hopewell Road near Halfway.
By Joe Crocetta/Staff Photographer

An April industrial accident that claimed the life of a Pennsylvania man at the Purina Mills plant near Halfway has been ruled accidental, according to the results of an investigation by the state labor department.

The accident in which Aaron Ball, 25, died was determined to have been the result of operator error, said Michael Raia, a spokesman for the Maryland Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation.

"The employee had been trained to lock out the auger but failed to do so," Raia said Thursday.

Ball, a contract worker who lived near Mercersburg, Pa., was cleaning equipment at the plant at 11671 Hopewell Road on April 13 when the fatal accident occurred, Purina said in a statement on the day after the accident.

Raia said the investigation was conducted from April 13 to May 25, but the report, which was issued June 16, couldn't be released until Purina officials confirmed that they received a copy.

The report was made available to the public Friday.

Purina also was cited for seven alleged safety violations that were found at the plant while the investigation was being conducted. Unless the company contests the allegations, fines associated with the violations must be paid within 15 days.

Three of the violations were labeled serious and carried fines totaling $9,350, according to labor department documents. No fines were imposed on the other four violations, which were deemed to be "not a serious violation."

The law requires that a copy of the citation and notification of penalty be posted in a "prominent place at or near the location of the violation(s) cited ... or, if it is not practicable because of the nature of employer's operations, where it will be readily observable by all affected employees."

When asked to comment, Purina spokeswoman Jeanne Forbis said in an email: "As we said at the time of the accident, the company extends it deepest sympathy to the family of the contract worker. Land O'Lakes is committed to maintaining a safe workplace, and we are saddened by this tragic accident."

Purina is a Land O'Lakes Inc. company.

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