LASALLE, Colo — The U.S. Department of Labor has cited a LaSalle dairy farm operator for multiple violations following an investigation into how an employee drowned in a manure pit at the dairy in March.
Juan Panzo Temoxtle, 44, drowned when the vacuum truck he was driving entered an unguarded manure holding pit at Shelton Dairy.
The subsequent federal workplace safety investigation found that the dairy farm failed to protect its workers from drowning, crushing, and chemical hazards, according to the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). OSHA cited Shelton Land and Cattle Ltd., which was doing business as Shelton Dairy Corp.
The company faces $24,575 in penalties, according to OSHA.
Based on the investigation, inspectors found that Temoxtle had been offloading manure when the vehicle drove into the 12-foot deep pit with Temoxtle trapped in the cab. The pit did not have "adequate guarding or curbing to prevent the truck from falling into the manure pit while moving it into position," according to the citation.
Sources close to Temoxtle's family said workers at the site were not able to pull the truck out of the pit. He was submerged for about 30 minutes before a helicopter arrived.
He died the following day in a hospital from hypoxic injuries due to lack of oxygen.
Project Protect Food Systems Workers (PPFS) said Temoxtle had been employed for about six weeks and the day of the accident was his first day operating the dairy's manure vacuum truck. Temoxtle was working to provide for his wife and three children, who were all living in Mexico, PPFS said.
OSHA Area Director Amanda Kupper in Denver said manure pits are known hazards at dairy farms.
“If required guarding had been installed, this worker’s life could have been spared," Kupper said.
Shelton Land and Cattle has 15 business days to comply with the findings, contest them, or discuss the matter with OSHA’s area director.
Click here to read the full citation.
Front Line Farming, a food and farmers advocacy group, set up a GoFundMe with donations going to help Temoxtle's family after the incident.