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General Mills fined $850 after worker death

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Posted: Tuesday, May 8, 2012 2:20 pm | Updated: 6:07 am, Wed May 9, 2012.

General Mills was required to pay an $850 penalty after the death of an employee at its Lodi plant last October.

Worker and Lodi resident Gary Lawce, a bulk storage operator, was crushed by a railcar at about 11:30 a.m. on Oct. 13, 2011.

According to a report released by the Department of Industrial Relations, Lawce was moving a railcar so it could be unloaded. But when he was unable to connect a shuttlewagon to the railcar, the railcar began to roll free.

A shuttlewagon is a vehicle that can travel in both directions on railroad tracks to move railcars to and from a destination.

The report, which was completed on April 4, stated Lawce jumped off the shuttlewagon and ran to the front of the moving car, where he attempted to use the brake to stop it from rolling.

However, Lawce got pinned between the railcar and the bridge where the unloading occurs, and he was crushed. According to his death certificate, Lawce suffered blunt force and abdominal injury. He was 53.

The business was cited for failing to maintain and inspect the shuttlewagon according to manufacturer regulations, and was fined $850.

According to the report, General Mills had to pay the fine within 15 days of the receipt of the violation notification.

"While we acknowledge the citation and this unfortunate incident, we remain committed to providing a safe workplace for all employees," said General Mills spokesperson Bridget Christenson.

Lawce was born on Aug. 22, 1958 in Alhambra, and moved to Lodi in 1963. He graduated from Lodi High School in 1976.

Lawce went on to serve in the U.S. Army for four years, and he had worked at General Mills for 27 years.

An avid fisherman and hunter, Lawce also had one son, Jeremiah.

General Mills opened its Lodi plant in 1948, and is the largest industrial employer in Lodi.

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