Wisconsin Commercial Bakery Faces $263,000 in Fines

The maker of Village Hearth breads failed to report a worker's injury as required.

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SUN PRAIRIE, Wis. – A U.S. Department of Labor investigation into an employee’s disabling injuries at a Sun Prairie commercial baking facility in October 2023 found the well-known Midwest bread supplier again violated workplace safety regulations.

For the second time since 2019, the department’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration opened an injury investigation at the Pan-O-Gold Baking Company’s facility, which the company failed to report as required. Inspectors determined the incident occurred as the employee adjusted a sensor in a bread pattern forming machine.

After its investigation, OSHA cited the Minnesota-based company — which operates as Village Hearth — for two repeat violations for failing to ensure the use of lockout/tagout and energy control procedures. In addition, the agency identified six serious and two other-than-serious violations addressing Pan-O-Gold’s failures to train employees in lockout/tagout energy control, provide adequate machine guarding, require the use of hand protection, enter description details on the injury log and report the employee’s hospitalization. OSHA proposed $262,953 in penalties. 

“Pan-O-Gold Baking Company could have prevented this employee from suffering life-altering injuries by implementing required safety procedures to stop the machine from unexpectedly starting-up as he tried to adjust the sensor,” said OSHA Area Director Chad Greenwood in Madison. “Instead, this worker and his family are now forced to face an uncertain future and the personal and financial struggles that come with suffering disabling injuries and being unable to return to work.”

OSHA’s 2019 investigation into how workers suffered amputation and laceration injuries at the same Sun Prairie location determined the company exposed employees to hazards by failing to use and follow lockout/tagout procedures for machine safety. OSHA’s evaluation of the company’s overall safety and health management systems found Pan-O-Gold’s average days away, restricted, or transferred rate for 2020-2022 was more than 160 percent higher than the nationwide average for commercial bakeries, as reported by the Bureau of Labor Statistics in 2021. 

OSHA provides information on lockout/tagout and other machine safety procedures for use by employers to understand how to protect workers from potential safety and health hazards.

Founded in 1911, the Pan-O-Gold Baking Co. produces bread products for retail, commercial and food service use under brands such as Artisan Hearth, Country Hearth, Village Hearth, Bubba’s Bagels, Papa’s Pitas, Lakeland, New England and Frescados. Headquartered in St. Cloud, Minnesota, the company operates bakeries in St. Paul, Sun Prairie and Fargo, North Dakota, with about 1,300 employees. 

The company has 15 business days from receipt of its citations and penalties to comply, request an informal conference with OSHA’s area director, or contest the findings before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.

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