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A 31-year-old engineer died May 27 when his head ended up struck by an unguarded rotating gear arm on a piece of bakery equipment at Chicago-based Alpha Baking Co. Inc., said officials at the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).

As a result the baking plant is facing a fine of $42,000 for six serious safety violations following the incident.

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“It is unacceptable that Alpha Baking Co. would expose workers to unguarded machinery. This tragic loss of life could have been prevented by ensuring workers were not exposed to dangerous equipment without safety mechanisms,” said Angeline Loftus, OSHA’s area director at its Chicago North Office in Des Plaines. “Injuries involving machinery and equipment often result in death or permanent disability. OSHA continues to focus on identifying and eliminating these types of hazards.”

OSHA’s inspection found the employee, who had been with the company six years, was attempting to check the oil level of the encoder gear box on a bakery loader after the equipment underwent servicing. After the servicing, the machine guards had not been reinstalled. As he placed his head into the gearbox area to get a better view of the oil level, the gear arm unexpectedly rotated and struck him in the head, catching him between the machine’s gear arm and frame.

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OSHA found other amputation and caught-in hazards at the facility and included the company’s failure to implement specific lockout/tagout procedures to prevent machinery from operating during service and maintenance.

A serious violation occurs when there is substantial probability that death or serious physical harm could result from a hazard about which the employer knew or should have known.

Alpha Baking Co. employs 1,400 workers and produces hot dog and hamburger buns and other bread goods at two plants in Chicago and one in La Porte, Indiana. The company currently sells its products under the S. Rosen’s, Mary Ann, Kreamo, Golden Hearth and Natural Ovens brand names.

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