Napa Valley wine grape grower appeals $37,000 in penalties in harvester death

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A Napa County wine grape grower is appealing penalties from California labor regulators after a vineyard worker died in an accident during last year’s harvest.

De Coninck Vineyards has filed an appeal of the California Department of Industry Relations Division of Occupational Safety and Health citation with $37,650 in penalties issued April 26, but the appeal through the separate Occupational Safety and Health Appeals Board won’t proceed until Cal/OSHA’s Bureau of Investigations completes its work, department spokesman Lucas Brown said Friday.

Leon Marcelo, 49, was assigned to keep everything other than grape clusters out of a funnel on a grape harvester as it straddled rows of a vineyard on Monticello Road near Napa on Oct. 29, according to a Cal/OSHA case narrative.

A 24-year veteran of the company, Marcelo had been working for about 10 hours that day when his sweatshirt wrapped around an unguarded revolving control shaft near the funnel around 12:30 p.m. When the driver and crew foreman saw Marcelo signal for help, he stopped the harvester to help, but Marcelo’s body quickly went limp and he was later declared dead, according to the report.

Cal/OSHA cited De Coninck for failing to enforce safety rules and regularly inspecting equipment, to train workers and supervisors about heat illness, to have a written heat illness prevention plan, to guard the harvester’s control shaft and to operate the harvester according to safe practices and operating rules.

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