Vineyard Manager Jailed After Worker Fatality

Tampering with or removing safety devices on machinery can kill workers. One such incident recently resulted in the manager of a California vineyard being sentenced to 30 days’ jail and ordered to perform 80 hours of community service at a workplace safety agency.

Jose Antonio Ambriz-Luquin, 37, was working alone, operating a tractor, at Vino Farms Inc. when the machine started to roll over. He attempted to get off the tractor, but his clothing became caught and he was pinned under the machine overnight.

Ambriz-Luquin died several days later in hospital. California safety investigators found out that the manager of Vino Farms, James Poole, 61, had ordered the removal of a kill switch on the tractor’s seat that would have stopped the machine from continuing to move forward and possibly prevented the fatality.

“All workers have the right to expect that they will come home at the end of the workday and that their employers will keep in place all manufacturers’ safety devices on equipment used for work,” said District Attorney Jill Ravitch. “Companies and supervisors who disable safety devices will be held accountable for the sake of workers who depend on them.”

Poole pleaded no contest to a misdemeanor violation of the Labor Code relating to the removal of a manufacturer’s safety device.

Vino Farms has been ordered to pay $100,000 to the victim’s family, along with $75,000 to the State of California and $25,000 to AG Safe, a worker safety organization.

The vineyard has also agreed to strengthen some of its policies to ensure that workers will be able to get emergency help if they run into trouble while working alone.