Bushwick Tortilla Maker Facing Safety Violations Year After Worker's Death

By Meredith Hoffman on January 24, 2012 8:41pm 

Juan Baten (right) died after falling into a dough mixer at Tortilleria Chinantla in Bushwick on Jan. 24, 2011.
Juan Baten (right) died after falling into a dough mixer at Tortilleria Chinantla in Bushwick on Jan. 24, 2011.
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Rosario Ramirez

BUSHWICK — The site of a young factory worker's death is still open for business a year after the tragic incident, despite facing a slew of health and safety violations, officials said Tuesday.

Guatemalan immigrant Juan Baten, 22, died at the the Tortilleria Chinantla factory at 975 Grand St. on Jan. 24, 2011, after falling into a dough mixer at the tortilla manufacturer.

The factory, which has an open case with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration and has been contesting the violations since the summer, faces fines totaling $64,000 for the infractions, an OSHA spokesman confirmed. 

Six of the outstanding violations have been deemed "serious," including infractions for a lack of measures to guard against "unintended startup of machinery," an absence of training for industrial truck operators, and a failure to acknowledge Baten's death on the factory's injury record.

OSHA also determined that the company knowingly neglected to guard its machines, OSHA spokesman Ted Fitzgerald said. The machine was only guarded after Baten's death, he added.

Tortilleria Chinantla distributes its products to 11 states around the country, according to its website. Its owner did not immediately respond to a request for comment Tuesday.

Rosario Ramirez, Baten's partner and the mother of his 19-month-old daughter, Daisy, said he had worked at the factory for six years before the accident and that he never complained about feeling unsafe. But he did tire of his work schedule of six night shifts per week, she explained.

"He said it was fine," Ramirez said in Spanish, from her home in East New York on Tuesday. 

A candlelight vigil was held for Baten Tuesday at 6:30 p.m. in front of the factory.

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