Death at Danville plant under investigation

Death at Danville plant under investigation

DANVILLE — Local and federal officials continue to investigate the death of a Pepsico Quaker employee who apparently fell five stories from a manlift at the Danville plant on Thursday night.

Brett Hauk, 51, of Danville, was pronounced dead at 8:52 p.m. at the plant at 1703 E. Voorhees St., Danville, according to Vermilion County Coroner Peggy Johnson.

An autopsy conducted Saturday revealed he died from traumatic blunt force injuries from the fall. Johnson said she's still waiting for toxicology and microscopic tests before concluding her investigation.

Pepsico Quaker officials did not return phone calls seeking a comment on the incident, which is being investigated by the coroner's office, Danville police and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration.

Danville Public Safety Director Larry Thomason said Mr. Hauk was reblending raw product materials on the fifth floor of the facility during his Thursday night shift.

Mr. Hauk was scheduled to go to another floor later that night, Thomason said. When he didn't show up, another employee went to check on him and discovered he had fallen.

Thomason said no one saw Mr. Hauk fall, as far as police have been able to determine. They don't know whether he was on the manlift or attempting to get on it when he fell.

According to OSHA, a manlift is "a device consisting of a power-driven endless belt moving in one direction only provided with steps or platforms and hand holds attached to it for the transportation of personnel from floor to floor."

An inspector from OSHA's Peoria area office is conducting an inquiry to determine whether any laws were violated, assistant area director Barry Salerno said. He added the agency routinely conducts inspections following workplace fatalities or catastrophes, meaning incidents where three or more employees are hospitalized overnight.

Salerno declined to comment on the inspection at the Quaker facility.

However, he said an inspection can take up to six months. If any violations are found, the agency could propose issuing penalties.

"If there's no dispute over the violations, (a company) can accept them and pay any fines associated with them," Salerno said, explaining the options. "If they have questions or concerns, they can request an informal conference with the area director to discuss their concerns. And if those concerns aren't resolved, they can formally contest the proposed citations."