The article below appeared in the (Mobile) Press Register on Saturday, December 20, 2008. It was written by Sean Reilly from their Washington Bureau.
On several of my previous posts, I have complained that the fines by OSHA have been much too lax. In comparison of those minimal posts with the fines to Cintas, it seems that the pendulum has swung to the opposite direction. This is not to say that the fines are excess to Cintas as compared to others, but I mean to say that the others should have been more in line with these.
It just does not make Horse Sense for one company in the Construction Industry to receive mere pats-on-the-back while a General Industry company is fined more severely. After all, I guess that one side of the fence is governed one way and the other side is governed differently!
Problems cited at industrial laundries in Mobile, other plants.
By Sean Reilly
The agreement also requires that the Cincinnati-based company hire new safety and health coordinators, including one at its Mobile plant, and install new safeguards in its washing and drying operations over the next two years. It must take immediate, interim steps to protect employees in the wash areas, according to the settlement announced by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration.
In return, federal labor regulators downgraded citations accusing the company of "willful" health and safety violations and took 10 percent off the amount of the fines originally proposed. Cintas did not admit to any wrongdoing.
In a statement, Acting Assistant Labor Secretary Thomas Stohler said the agreement is binding on the company and "will help create a more safety-conscious corporate culture." Cintas spokeswoman Pam Lowe called the plan "one of the most comprehensive, forward-looking safety programs designed for our industry." Before the settlement, the company had expanded training and taken other steps to improve safety, according to a release.
But while the fine is relatively large by OSHA standards, it amounts to 1 percent of Cintas' annual profits, said Eric Frumin, health and safety director for Unite Here, a New Your based union that represents laundry and garment workers. The settlement also sets no schedule for OSHA inspections to ensure compliance, Frumin said.
"If I were Cintas, I would not worry about OSHA inspectors showing up because of this agreement," he said.
In April, Cintas' safety record was probed in a congressional hearing that focused on the March 2007 death of the Tulsa employee, Eleazor Torres Gomez. Later that year OSHA proposed $196,000 in fines for the Mobile plant, citing 15 safety violations including an unguarded hole in the floor, as well as repeated failures to protect employees from electrical shock and implement measures to keep machines from starting accidentally.
The Mobile plant has about 120 employees; under the settlement, it is one of three Cintas facilities that must hire a full-time safety and health coordinator. The other two are in Tulsa and Columbus, Ohio.
plant in the wake of the agreement. Kurt It is unclear whether Mobile's OSHA office plans added oversight of the CintasPetermeyer, the office's newly named area director, referred questions Friday to an agency spokesman in Atlanta, who declined to comment.
The settlement terms will apply to other Cintas facilities in states where OSHA has direct oversight, but not to 41 Cintas plants in the 15 states that run their own health and sadfety programs under OSHA's authorization, Frumin said.