LOUISVILLE,  Ky. (WDRB) – Federal authorities have charged a cement company with “willfully” violating workplace safety rules after a worker died at its Dixie Highway facility in 2014.

The Kosmos Cement Co., which operates as Cemex, faces a $500,000 fine. The company allegedly failed to fix a defective elevator at a cement factory in Kosmosdale, according to documents filed March 25 in U.S. District Court in Louisville.

A contract employee fell to his death in an elevator shaft at the plant on February 21, 2014. At the time, the elevator’s outer door was able to be opened even when the elevator wasn’t there, U.S. Attorney John E. Kuhn Jr., claims in the court filing.

Monterrey, Mexico-based Cemex operates in more than 50 countries and has 13 cement plants and more than 350 ready-mix concrete plants in the United States. Cemex USA spokeswoman Sara Bouffard said she couldn’t comment on the Louisville case because it’s a “matter of ongoing litigation.”

A tentative plea agreement was filed under seal March 31, and a hearing in the case is scheduled for April 20, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

The U.S. Mine Safety and Health Administration investigated the death of 37-year-old Felipe Mata Vizcaya, a laborer for Personal Touch Inc. of Demopolis, Ala., who had worked for about five months at the site.

Investigators concluded that Vizcaya, while on the fourth floor of the facility, opened a door to the elevator, stepped into the shaft and fell 51 feet, striking the top of an elevator car on the first floor. He died of blunt force injuries.

The MSHA report found that “defective conditions related to the safe operation of the elevator were not corrected in a timely manner.”

Vizcaya was the second employee who died on the job in less than three months. Cemex worker Robert Allen, 59, was struck and killed on Dixie Highway while trying to direct traffic outside the plant on December 10, 2013, according to police, who determined Allen was holding a flashlight not meant for traffic control and not wearing proper clothes.  

The Kentucky Labor Cabinet issued a $7,000 fine to Cemex for failing to provide a hazard-free workplace, including giving workers reflective vests, stop signs and flashlights required under federal traffic control standards, according to documents in a lawsuit filed by the driver who struck Allen. The company settled the suit last November.

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