LOCAL

More details emerge in death of Hanover Foods worker who fell into bean hopper

Anthony Maenza
York Dispatch

More details came to light Thursday as authorities investigate an incident in which a Hanover man died after falling into a bean hopper at Hanover Food's Penn Township food processing plant.

The man, 59-year-old Allan Offord, was employed by Axiom Staffing Group, a temporary employment agency with local offices all along the East Coast. Efforts to reach Offord's family were unsuccessful, as of Thursday.

Occupational Safety and Health Administration spokesperson Leni Fortson said the agency has opened an investigation into both Axiom and Hanover Foods, where Offord was working at the time of his death.

Records provided by OSHA indicate that Axiom Staffing Group has not been investigated for any violations in Pennsylvania in the last five years. Hanover Foods, meanwhile, paid fines for workplace violations that took place in 2018 and 2021.

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Axiom was the subject of an OSHA investigation in 2018 related to a complaint in Georgia, federal records show, but that did not result in any fines or citations.

Hanover Foods' Factory Outlet Store in Hanover Tuesday, July 6, 2021. Bill Kalina photo

Rebecca Wilson, an Axiom spokesperson, said the company's Hanover office referred Offord to Hanover Foods to fill a temporary position.

“We cannot comment due to the ongoing investigation. We are fully cooperating with everybody involved,” Wilson said. “We have been in consistent contact with Allan’s family and we share our deepest sympathies with his family.” 

Presently, Axiom has no lawsuits filed against it in Pennsylvania. In Maryland in 2010, Axiom paid $35,000 to a Maryland woman who sued the company for disability discrimination because they refused to place her due to a back impairment despite her years of experience performing clerical and customer service duties.

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An autopsy was performed on Offord Wednesday at Lehigh Valley Hospital in Allentown. Results of that autopsy are still pending results of additional testing. Once those results are received, the cause and manner in which Offord died will be updated. 

Offord was found by fellow employees at the Penn Township facility at about 2:40 a.m. Tuesday after he fell into the piece of equipment, according to the York County Coroner’s Office. 

Authorities do not know how long he had been in the hopper, the coroner's office reported. 

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According to the coroner's report, the Offord was awake, standing up and attempting to walk after being removed from the machinery. He passed out soon after, however, and did not respond to emergency first aid measures. He was pronounced dead at 3:52 a.m. by coroner's office staff.  

“We’re still in the process of determining the task he was performing,” Fortson said. “It’s part of the investigation.” 

According to OSHA records, the Hanover Foods plant was fined more than $12,000 in April for a serious violation that occurred on Nov. 1, 2021.  OSHA records indicate that violation stemmed from floors in the company’s green bean/potato processing building not being maintained in a “clean, and to the extent feasible, dry condition.”

The OSHA citation noted that the company had allowed water and food waste to accumulate on the work floor, creating slippery conditions.

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Ultimately, the issue was corrected and the fine lowered to $9,300.

In 2019, the facility was fined $7,900 for an incident that occurred in December 2018. According to OSHA records, gas leaked from a forklift's liquid propane tank that an employee was changing.  

"The employee sustained frostbite injuries to his gloved fingers, which required amputation," the report read. "The employee was hospitalized.”