by revere
Originally posted at Effect Measure 

You know any post that starts out . . .

Gerardo Castillo, 30 years old, had worked at the Blommer Chocolate Co. for 9 years. His family wanted him to quite ever since an explosion in a roaster killed a fellow worker and injured another. He was fearful himself, but he stayed on . . .

is going to end badly. You’d be right. Continuing with our post . . .

But on the weekend, something terrible happened at Blommer’s four story factory on Chicago’s Near West Side, after an unnamed substance was added to a batch of chocolate resulting in a chemical reaction that produced ammonia or an ammonia-like substance. Two co-workers were hospitalized. Ammonia and ammonia-like chemicals are extremely irritating to the respiratory tract. They can cause laryngospasm, a condition where the larynx involuntarily locks up to prevent the irritant from gaining access to the lungs. It is like being chemically garroted. The worker can’t breathe. If the ammonia gets into the lungs it can cause severe inflammation and an outpouring of fluid from the blood into the lung sacs where gas exchange must take place to maintain loife. The worker drowns in his own body fluids. That is likely what happened to Gerardo Castillo last weekend.

Two days later (yesterday) a fire department hazmat team was called back to the factory to deal with a fire there. In 2005 a neighbor complained about the smell from the factory and an EPA inspection revealed a violation of the limits on the thickness of dust produced by the factory’s grinder. But the EPA is not a workplace safety agency.

This was the second fatal accident at this factory in seven years. You’d think the first might have drawn the interest of OSHA. You’d be wrong. The Bush administration OSHA is out of the business of being interested in workplace safety:

OSHA last inspected the facility in 1994, said federal compliance officer Tricia Railton, who was reading from a report. Those safety investigations had to do with workers who were cleaning a piece of equipment that either had not been disconnected or was not marked as being potentially dangerous to the cleaners if turned on. It was not immediately clear if an injury prompted that inspection, Railton said. (Chicago Tribune)

Not only had the Bush administration OSHA not inspected a company with a fatal accident, but it was a company with a prior record of workplace safety violation.

So, yes, this post ends badly:

Castillo left two children, with the youngest, Daniele, 3, still not told as of Monday afternoon that her father had died, [his brother-in-law Miguel] Reyna said. (Chicago Tribune)

OSHA finally sent inspectors to Brommer Chocolate. The day after Gerardo Castillo died.