Cal/OSHA has ordered Knott's Berry Farm to improve the hand signals used to operate its train ride after a January accident that trapped a Calico Railroad conductor under the 250-ton steam engine.
State investigators issued the special order this week, concluding their three-month probe into the Jan. 27 accident, Cal/OSHA spokesman Dean Fryer said.
Carlos Garcia, 62, suffered multiple fractures to one leg and a fractured foot on the other leg when he was trapped under the train's cowcatcher and dragged about 50 feet. He later told Buena Park police that he did not realize the train had started moving when he stepped in front of it to shoo away someone standing too close to the tracks.
Another employee, Gary Wahlenmailer, who makes sure the coast is clear for the train and who participates in the train-robbery act, said to police: "I never gave the clear sign for the engineer to come, and I don't know why the train was there so quickly. I don't know, maybe I did do it. I can't remember."
The theme park was not cited or fined in the accident. Instead, state officials issued a special order that the park create a new communication or signaling system that is "specific, consistent and unambiguous," Fryer said.
Knott's Berry Farm must comply with the order by May 31, but spokeswoman Susan Tierney said the park has already improved its hand signals--a change put in place immediately after the accident.
"We've made it a more formal policy," Tierney said. "It indicates a 'clear' from the employee that's on the midway to the engineer. . . . Ultimately, our goal is definitely not to have this happen to any of our employees again or to any of our guests."
Cal/OSHA issues special orders when there are no health or safety violations but when an employer can take measures to increase safety, Fryer said.
The Calico Railroad, an authentic, slow-paced steam engine, runs through the park, picking up passengers at different spots. In 1996, a train operator died when he was crushed between two passenger cars.
Garcia's injuries were not life-threatening, and Tierney said he is "doing well" and continues to improve.