02/21/10 — Wayne man dies in factory accident

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Wayne man dies in factory accident

By Nick Hiltunen
Published in News on February 21, 2010 12:42 PM

WILSON -- A worker at Peninsula Packaging was killed after being pulled into an extruder machine on Thursday, a spokesman for the N.C. Department of Labor confirmed Friday.

Tony Ballew, 44, of Wayne County, an employee of Peninsula Packaging Company, on Wilco Boulevard in Wilson, was the victim of the accident, a Wilson County Sheriff's Office captain said.

The next step for the incident is an investigation into the maker of plastic food packagings, a state official said.

Neal O'Briant, a spokesman for the Department of Labor, which oversees the Occupational Health and Safety Administration, said that fatality investigations can take up to four months.

"Preliminary information that we received is that the worker was caught in an extruder machine," O'Briant said before describing the investigation.

"They'll be looking at the equipment specifically, the employment training program," O'Briant said. "They be interviewing witnesses for a fatality investigation, it is typically about three or four months."

The spokesman said the Department of Labor issues citations only after the investigation is complete, so O'Briant declined to say whether the department believes citable violations of safety protocol occurred.

Peninsula makes food packaging, using plastics to make containers for things like fruits, baked goods and pre-made sandwiches.

An extruder is a machine that produces lengths of plastic, usually consisting of a electrically-heated tube-shaped barrel, which holds one or more revolving screws, among other things.

O'Briant said that when an investigation is completed, citations become a matter of public record. The findings that led to citations are not, he said.

The Wilson Police Department contacted Wayne County Sheriff Carey Winders, who said he took Capt. F.S. Greenfield with him to notify Ballew's family of the death.