Home Depot employee killed at Mexico, Mo. distribution center

Kenneth Baker, 30, died when a loading dock plate collapsed

MEXICO, Mo. - The Home Depot confirmed an employee was killed at its distribution center in Mid-Missouri Tuesday afternoon.

Family identified the employee as Kenneth Lee Baker, 30, of Auxvasse. According to family, Baker, a married father of four girls, was working on a loading dock when it collapsed and crushed him.

Birce Mesko, an assistant safety director in Mexico, says Baker died while trying to repair a loading dock plate at Home Decorators, a distribution center, and Home Depot subsidiary.

Mesko says the plate fell on Baker. Investigators say it took several coworkers to get the plate off of him. Baker was sent to the hospital, where he was pronounced dead.

Mesko says investigators are trying to determine whether safety mechanisms on the plate were used correctly or were functioning properly.

Company officials say the incident is under investigation by local authorities and the company has informed the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).

Home Decorators is located at 5701 E. Liberty Street in Mexico. It began in Mexico in 1997 and employs approximately 200 employees.

An autopsy was scheduled for Wednesday in Boone County.

Home Depot spokesperson Paula Drake released the following statement about the incident:

"We are deeply saddened by the passing of our dedicated associate.  Our hearts, prayers and deepest sympathies go out to the family during this difficult time.  Because the matter is currently under investigation by local authorities, we cannot comment on any specifics at this time.  However, we will continue to cooperate fully with the authorities, and we will continue to support all of our associates at this facility as they deal with the death of their coworker and friend.

We are extremely serious about the safety of our associates, and our safety team is conducting a thorough review of the incident to determine what, if anything, could have been done to avoid it. We have also reported the incident to OSHA, and we will fully cooperate with them on any investigation."

Investigation underway

OSHA officials say there is an inspector investigating the incident. The inspector will look for the cause and if any safety laws were violated.

It would then be up to the Home Depot to fix the problem for the future. OSHA says the company could face severe penalties if the company was at fault.

The agency says a full report could take between 30 and 60 days to finalize, but inspectors have up to six months to issue one.

Previous OSHA violation

After receiving a complaint in May 2011, OSHA cited the distribution center off E. Liberty Street for a "serious" violation for how it handles materials.

The handling materials violation includes improper use of mechanical equipment on loading docks, not securing storage, or accumulating materials that could create a hazard.

After initially penalizing the company $4,250, OSHA informally settled with the company in August 2011 for $2,125.

Drake told ABC 17 News on Wednesday the 2011 OSHA citation and fine is "completely unrelated" to Tuesday's incident.

Family announces funeral plans

Baker's family told ABC 17 News his visitation is schedule for Sunday, June 2 from 4-7 p.m. at the Pickering Funeral Home in Mexico.

Burial will be held in East Lawn Memorial Park.

The family has asked that any memorials be given to a scholarship fund for Baker's four children. Donations can be made through the Show-Me Credit Union in Mexico.

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