A worker at the Hershey chocolate plant in Oakdale lost an arm when the machine she was cleaning accidentally switched on, authorities said Monday.
Erica Domen, 32, of Modesto was cleaning a batter-sifting machine when the accident occurred at 1:20 a.m. Saturday, said Dean Fryer, spokesman for the California Division of Occupational Safety and Health.
"The motor was off, and then it started back up," Oakdale police Sgt. Vernon Gladney said. The machine caught her hand and she lost her arm at the shoulder, he said.
Domen was unable to speak when fire and ambulance crews arrived, Gladney said. Domen was taken by ambulance to Doctor's Medical Center in Modesto, Gladney said.
Officials at the hospital could not confirm her condition.
"Her arm got caught in some machinery, and it actually pulled her arm off," Oakdale police Sgt. Keri Ford said. "It wasn't a clean cut-off. They weren't able to replace it."
Domen was in shock but conscious when police arrived a few minutes later, Ford said. "I have no doubt that her co-workers saved her life," Ford said. "They had some kind of cloth and were applying pressure to the open wound."
It is believed that she was working alone at the time of the accident, and it is unclear why the machine switched on, Fryer said.
Cal-OSHA arrived at 6:45 a.m. Saturday and opened an investigation.
Fryer said investigators will conduct interviews with employees and management at the plant to determine what happened, and to see if proper procedures were followed.
"Whenever equipment is being worked on, it has to be locked so it cannot operate or be de-energized so there is no power to it.
It appears that was not the case here," Fryer said.
The agency also will review Hershey's training procedures, and examine the machine to see if it malfunctioned. Workers have been instructed not to operate the machine or tamper with it.
The investigation is expected to be completed within six months, Fryer said.