A piece of clothing stuck in a lift cost a worker his life at the Owens-Brockway Glass Container plant Monday morning.
According to Division Chief Andy Kellogg, the Tracy Fire Department got the call at 11:47 a.m. A man, identified by the company as Doug Porteous, had fallen 20 feet from a belt-driven lift in one of the buildings at 14700 W. Schulte Road.
“From what we were able to gather, he had gotten onto the lift system and part of his clothing got caught on the mechanism and he was unable to free himself. He was also unable to reach the emergency shutoff cable,” Kellogg said Tuesday.
The lift — an unenclosed platform workers can stand on — was carrying Porteous down from an upper level, through the ground floor and into a basement, 20 feet below the ground level. He grabbed onto the concrete floor of the first level as he passed in an attempt to rip his clothing free of the mechanism.
“He held onto the floor, but pants didn’t rip,” Kellogg said. “Another worker was able to get it shut off. He was hanging and eventually lost his grip.”
The division chief said the man struck several things in his fall to the basement floor.
“(We) got him extracted (and) we worked on him for 20 minutes,” Kellogg said, before the man was declared dead.
Owens-Illinois, which owns the facility, released a statement Wednesday:
“Our thoughts and prayers are with Doug’s family and friends, as well as our entire plant team and the O-I community at this difficult time. We have offered counseling services to our employees through our Employee Assistance Program.”
Owens-Illinois has had only three reported accidents at the Tracy plant since 1972. Records of the California Occupational Safety and Health Administration show that a machine crushed a worker’s finger on Aug. 7, 2012. An incident on Dec. 12, 2011, resulted in the amputation of a worker’s finger. In 2006, another worker lost a finger as he was cleaning grease off a roller machine.
There are no records of any loss of life and only three other complaints about health conditions during that same time.
Cal/OSHA released a statement about the accident Tuesday:
“May 16, the Cal/OSHA district office in Modesto was notified of a fatal accident involving an employee of Owens-Illinois, occurring in Tracy. According to the outside source, the plant worker fell down an elevator shaft. Cal/OSHA is investigating.”
Owens-Illinois representatives wrote that the company would carry out its own inquiry.
“In addition to cooperating fully with Cal/OSHA in their investigation, we are conducting a comprehensive internal investigation to identify the cause of the incident. O-I is dedicating significant resources and attention to this effort, which will involve direct oversight from senior management.”
The lift used at the Owens-Brockway facility is regulated in Chapter 4, Subchapter 6, Article 17, Subsections 3097-3099 of the Department of Industrial Relations code. Such machines must have standing platforms that are between 12 and 14 inches deep and 17 and 21 inches wide and must have handholds between 48 and 56 inches above the platform.
There is no record of any citations about the lifts at the Tracy plant.