By Ismail Shakil and Katharine Jackson
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The U.S. Labor Department on Friday slapped a $298,000 penalty on Hostess Brands (NASDAQ:), alleging that safety and training failures at the bakery firm led to a worker in Chicago losing a fingertip in December.
The department said its investigation found that the Hostess could have prevented the amputation injury a 29-year-old worker suffered while reassembling a pump at a company facility in Chicago.
Hostess could have prevented the injury by ensuring that equipment is shut down and locked up to prevent it from unexpectedly starting during maintenance, the department said in a statement.
The investigation was launched after the company, which makes popular snacks like Twinkies, Ding Dongs and Donettes, reported the injury to the Labor Department.
A Hostess spokesperson said on Friday that the company was reviewing the Labor Department’s allegations, but declined to comment further on “pending investigations.”
“The safety and well-being of our employees is our top priority, and we take all safety concerns very seriously,” the spokesperson said in an emailed statement.
The Labor Department has alleged that Hostess “failed to make sure shafts, sprockets and moving parts on equipment … had required guarding in place to protect workers from contact with pinch points and moving parts.”
The department’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has cited the company for one willful violation, one repeat violation and five serious violations. The company has 15 business days to comply, request an informal conference, or contest the Labor Department findings.
“Employers can spare their employees these kinds of painful injuries by complying with OSHA and industry-recognized safety standards,” OSHA official Sukhvir Kaur said.
OSHA has cited Hostess for failing to protect employees’ safety and health in 12 inspections since 2018, and the agency identified some of the previously identified hazards at the Chicago facility as well.