The Cintas Corp. is facing $196,000 in penalties for exposing Mobile workers to illegal hazards “likely to cause death or serious physical harm,” according to a citation issued this week by the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration. This week’s action by OSHA marks the fifth time that government safety inspectors have cited the company for potentially lethal safety violations since a worker was killed at its Tulsa laundry in March.
Alarmingly, OSHA uncovered “repeat” violations in Mobile for the same types of violations that led to the death of Tulsa worker Eleazar Torres Gomez. Mr. Torres Gomez was killed in March after being dragged into an industrial dryer by an unguarded conveyor. He was trapped for at least 20 minutes in heat up to 300 degrees. Washroom conveyors carry hundreds of pounds of laundry at a time from the industrial washers to the dryers.
Cintas did not provide the necessary guarding to protect employees from being caught on conveyors in the Mobile plant’s washroom, according to OSHA. The emergency stop button for the conveyor was also missing in Mobile, and the company did not ensure that washroom machines were properly shut down before maintenance. Workers were exposed to a potentially fatal fall hazard while they were on top of the conveyors, a hazard OSHA classified as “willful.” Willful violations are committed with “intentional disregard” for the law or “plain indifference” to worker safety.
OSHA reported 15 total violations, including: exposure to open ten-foot pits filled with waste water; exposure to “injurious corrosive” chemicals; and exposure to potentially deadly electrical shock.
In the past three months, OSHA has proposed more than $3 million in penalties for health and safety citations at Cintas. The company faces $2.78 million in fines—the largest ever in the service sector—for violations in Tulsa. Additionally, government inspectors have cited Cintas for the same kinds of lethal hazards in Ohio, Washington and California.
This month, members of the U.S. House’s Subcommittee on Education and Labor, led by Rep. Lynn Woolsey (D-Ca.), reiterated their request for an OSHA investigation into all of Cintas’s facilities. The Representatives wrote that “it is essential that OSHA uncovers as quickly as possible other locations where workers may be at risk.” Cintas, North America’s largest uniform supplier, employs more than 34,000 people and has more than 400 facilities in the United States and Canada.