Seneca issued citation and penalty for incident involving workplace death, contests it

By: 
Jarrod Schoenecker

Jarrod Schoenecker photo

Seneca Foods Corporation in Montgomery.

Seneca Foods Corporation in Montgomery has been issued a citation by the Minnesota Department of Labor and Industry (MNDLI) and issued a penalty of $156,259 in regards to the incident which happened in the early morning hours of October 5, 2023, where 58-year-old worker Jose Luis Alvarado had items in a warehouse fall on top of him and he died from his injuries.

The citation and penalty state that the company willfully violated 29 CFR 1910.176(b) of the Minnesota Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1973, which says, “Storage of material shall not create a hazard. Bags, containers, bundles, etc., stored in tiers shall be stacked, blocked, interlocked and limited in height so that they are stable and secure against sliding or collapse.”

The document obtained from the MNDLI says, “On 10/5/23, the employer did not ensure that storage totes containing frozen corn cobs in the storage freezer were stacked in a way to prevent them from collapsing.”

Per the MNDLI website, “A violation that exposes employees to harm that the employer intentionally and knowingly commits is classified as a willful violation. To cite a willful violation, the investigator must collect evidence that the employer is aware a hazardous condition exists, knows the condition violates a standard or other obligation of the OSH Act and does not make a reasonable effort to eliminate it. Penalties of up to $156,259 may be proposed for each willful violation.”

The citation and penalty were issued on March 25, and Seneca sent in a “Notice of Contest” in response to the citation on March 29.

MNDLI Communications Coordinator James Honerman says, “Next step is an informal conference will be arranged between the employer and Minnesota OSHA Compliance to discuss reasons for contest. The date of the informal conference isn’t public as the case is still open. No further public information is available until the file is closed.”

The informal conference between Seneca and Minnesota OSHA Compliance, according to the MNDLI website, would be set up to negotiate an agreement. If an agreement is reached, a written settlement agreement is prepared. If not, the case is then scheduled for a hearing before an administrative law judge.

The Messenger has reached out to Seneca Foods Corporation and to a family member of the late Jose Luis Alvarado, neither of them has returned our request for comment on the matter before going to press in this issue.

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