The Stanislaus County district attorney's office has filed criminal charges against The Hershey Co. related to an accident in which a worker lost her arm last year at its since-closed Oakdale plant.
The criminal complaint, filed last month, charges Hershey with willfully violating job safety law, with an injury as a result.
On March 24, 2007, Hershey employee Erica Domen was cleaning the inside of a "conomill," a batter-sifting machine.
A rotating paddle in the machine caught Domen's left arm and amputated it at the shoulder.
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A report last summer by the California Division of Occupational Safety and Health found that employees weren't properly trained in how to lock a machine so that it couldn't begin operating while being cleaned or repaired.
OSHA's report also found a broken switch that was supposed to stop the machine from operating in such a situation.
The report was the basis of the district attorney's criminal complaint. OSHA also gave Hershey two citations, with fines of $70,000 each, as a result of the incident.
Officials with Hershey said at the time that they planned to appeal those fines.
Hershey could face a fine of up to $1.5 million if convicted in the district attorney's case, though it was not clear in that case whether any employees could face a jail sentence.
An attorney for Hershey did not enter a plea for the company at an initial hearing May 16. The two sides will return to court June 24.
Hershey spokesman Kirk Saville read a statement Wednesday that said the company takes employee safety very seriously.
"We strongly disagree with this complaint, and we intend to defend ourselves vigorously," he said in the statement. He had no further comment.
Domen could not be reached for comment.
At the time of the accident, Hershey was in the beginning stages of closing the Oakdale plant and moving operations to Mexico.
An Oakland company, Sconza Candy Co., announced plans earlier this year to buy the plant and move its candy-making operations there by this fall.
In March, an OSHA report about a man's death in 2007 at the Seneca Foods Corp. plant in Modesto also led to a criminal complaint from the district attorney's office.
The OSHA report in that case found that Seneca had improperly stacked cardboard and failed to keep employees out of a hazardous area, resulting in a stack of cardboard falling on and killing Paul Seay, 63, of Ceres.
Bee staff writer Ben van der Meer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 578-2331.