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Wine Industry

Trinchero Family Estates fined $44,575 by Cal/OSHA in worker's death

Vineyard reflection

Citing safety violations that lead to a worker’s death in August, Trinchero Family Estates has been fined $44,575 by the California Occupational Safety and Health Administration.

On Aug. 31, Jose Alberto Avina, a 43-year-old cellar worker, was crushed while unloading barrel racks from a truck at Joel Gott Wines, 2055 Hoffman Lane in Napa. Trinchero Family Estates owns and operates Joel Gott Wines.

According to his obituary, Avina was married and had four children. He was laid to rest in Mexico.

Trinchero Family Estates did not return requests for a comment this week.

The incident happened as Avina was working with two others to unload 12 stacks of metal barrel racks from a 40-foot container using a forklift. Each stack contained 17 barrel racks nestled together and weighed 1,445 pounds. There was not an unloading dock at the winery at that time, said the OSHA report.

Because the forklift couldn’t reach into the container, a chain and nylon straps were linked between the forklift and the racks to help pull the stacks out of the container.

Avina and another man served as guides inside the container as the racks were pulled out of the truck by the forklift.

“When the accident occurred we were guiding the rack back,” said cellar worker Francisco Javier Medina in a Cal/OSHA statement. “We would guide the rack back to within one foot of the edge, then tell the fork truck operator to stop.”

Medina said he saw the racks were unstable and then they “just started falling.” He said he jumped to get out of the way.

Jose Antonio Rubio-Castro, cellar master for Trinchero, said he saw the racks fall, and then he saw Avina.

Avina was unable to jump out of the path of the falling stack of racks and was struck and pinned under the racks on the asphalt parking surface, said the OSHA report.

“I got off the fork truck to help” free Avina from under the racks, said Rubio-Castro.

But it was too late. Avina’s torso was crushed when the racks fell on him, the OSHA report stated.

Avina was pronounced dead at the scene at 11 a.m., the Napa County Sheriff’s Office reported said at the time.

Cal/OSHA investigated the incident and noted a series of violations.

Trichero failed to identify and evaluate workplace hazards, the report stated. The company failed to inspect and maintain its forklift. The employer failed to provide training and instruction on using the forklift in this manner.

Trinchero also allowed the use of nylon winch cargo straps that were worn and damaged. The strap was used to pull loads contrary to the manufacturer’s intended use. Trinchero failed to prevent the barrel racks from tipping and falling, which lead to the death of Avina, Cal/OSHA said.

In his statement to Cal-OSHA, Medina said he hadn’t been given instructions about what to do or not do while working around this hazard, only “just to be careful.”

According to Trinchero Famly Estates Production Manager Julio Ramirez, “We did not have a written procedure for unloading the trucks with barrel racks. We did not have any training on how to unload the barrel racks from the trucks.”

Avina was an employee of Trinchero Family Estates, and had worked at the Hoffman Lane facility for two harvests, company spokeswoman Elizabeth Hooker previously reported.

“This is a terrible tragedy that is felt throughout our organization,” CEO and Chairman Roger Trinchero said in August. “As a family-run operation, every employee is part of our extended family and the loss is very painful for all of us.”

The case was closed on Feb. 28, the OSHA report stated.

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Business Editor

Jennifer Huffman is the business editor and a general assignment reporter for the Napa Valley Register. I cover a wide variety of topics for the newspaper. I've been with the Register since 2005.

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