Pharmaceutical Firm Fined for Safety Violations Leading to Worker Fatality

LOS ANGELES (CBS) — An Atwater Village pharmaceutical plant was fined Thursday by employment regulators for safety violations resulting in the death of a technician and grave injuries to two others.

Baxter Healthcare Corporation has 15 business days to appeal the 11 violations or pay the $371,250 fine, according to Cal-OSHA.

“We will not tolerate employers who intentionally sacrifice the safety of their workers,” said Christine Baker, acting director of the Department of Industrial Relations.

“Our goal is to prevent these needless tragedies and ensure employers live up to their responsibility of protecting their workers.”

Baxter technician Henry Astilla, 33, died January 21 after trying to help two unconscious colleagues overcome by fumes as they cleaned blood plasma from a 7-foot-tall cylindrical tank at the company, according to the agency.

Air in the 6,000-liter tank had been displaced by nitrogen gas resulting in an oxygen-deficient atmosphere in the tank, investigators determined.

The accident probe further revealed that when Astilla was discovered, a supervisor ordered two other employees to enter the tank and retrieve him, without testing the atmosphere of the tank or providing proper equipment and other safeguards necessary for a safe rescue.

As a result, Astilla died and the two employees sent to retrieve him were seriously injured.

One of them remains hospitalized, the agency said.


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