SELMA – The NC Department of Labor has fined a Johnston County business following the death of an employee. Vicky Lopez died May 3, 2022 after her arm became trapped inside a commercial dough mixer at Azteca Market on Meghan Circle in Selma. She was trapped in the industrial machine for two hours before being freed. The 44 year-old woman was airlifted from the scene and underwent emergency surgery but died later that day as a result of her injuries.
On December 7, the Department of Labor issued citations and fines to Azteca Market Inc. as a result of the department’s occupational safety and health inspection that began the day of the accident.
The Labor Department cited Azteca with two alleged serious violations of the Occupational Safety and Health Act of North Carolina with a total penalty of $7,350.60. The violations included the failure to properly train employees, and failure to develop and document procedures for employees operating, servicing, or maintaining commercial equipment.
Civil penalties for OSH violations are included in the Occupational Safety and Health Act of North Carolina in the General Statutes. The maximum penalty for each serious violation is $14,502. The General Statutes say that the Labor Department has to take into consideration various factors such as the gravity of the violation, the size of the business, the good faith and cooperation of the employer, and the history of previous violations.
State officials said the penalties are in no way designed to make up for loss of life. By law, the civil money penalties collected by the N.C. Department of Labor are not the receipts of the department, but rather must be remitted to the Civil Penalty and Forfeiture Fund, which then distributes the monies to the public school system.
The company has 15 working days to request an informal hearing with the Labor Department, to file a notice of contest with the Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission of North Carolina (an independent board appointed by the governor to hear appeals of OSH citations), or to pay the penalty.