Leily Lopez-Hernandez, 29, of Waukegan (inset) died early in the morning on December 22, 2022, at Miracapo Pizza Company in Gurnee during a machine accident on the production floor. | Photo: Google Street View

Federal authorities have issued over $2.8 million in fines to a pizza manufacturing plant in Gurnee after finding safety failures and lack of training led to a 29-year-old worker being killed by a machine.

The incident happened around 1:04 a.m. on December 22 at Miracapo Pizza Company, 1910 Swanson Court in Gurnee.

Inspectors with the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) learned the sanitation worker suffered fatal injuries while working on the overnight shift.

The worker was identified as Leily Lopez-Hernandez, 29, of Waukegan.

Inspectors determined Lopez-Hernandez, a temporary worker provided by XCEL Staffing Solutions LLC in Waukegan, was using compressed air to clean a spiral conveyor.

The conveyor was moving to cool pizza when Lopez-Hernandez’s head became caught in the machinery.

OSHA found that temporary workers had not been trained or given the authority to stop equipment from moving before cleaning.

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The incident occurred just weeks after a November incident at the same facility in which a worker performing maintenance on a sauce depositor suffered an amputation.

OSHA fined Miracapo, which is also known as Little Lady Foods, over $290,000 in proposed penalties for that incident.

Another employee suffered an amputation of a fingertip in October 2021 while trying to clear a jammed pizza conveyor at the facility.

OSHA announced Thursday they issued over $2.8 million in penalties against Miracapo for Lopez-Hernandez’s December death.

The pizza company was cited for 16 willful egregious violations, the agency’s most severe; one willful violation; and 12 serious violations, including five serious instance-by-instance violations of two standards on different machines.

“This tragedy took the life of a young woman, and forever changes the lives of her family, friends and co-workers. Safety standards are put in place to prevent these kinds of tragedies,” Assistant Secretary for OSHA Doug Parker said.

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“Employers have a responsibility to train workers in the language they understand so they know how to perform their work safely,” Parker said.

The agency has also placed the company in its “Severe Violator Enforcement Program.”

Miracapo said in a statement to Lake and McHenry County Scanner that they were “deeply saddened” by Lopez-Hernandez’s death.

“We have always prioritized the safety and security of everyone who enters our facilities, whether employees, contractors or visitors, and will continue to do so,” the statement said.

“While we disagree with OSHA’s findings released today, we remain committed to working with the agency to arrive at the best possible outcome for all. We are proud of our safety record. Safety has always been and will continue to be a core value for our Company,” the statement added.