CINCINNATI — Cintas Corp. has reached an agreement with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) pertaining to all automated and semiautomated laundry facilities under OSHA’s federal jurisdiction, the agency reports. The agreement resolves six cases relating to citations against Cintas for safety hazards at laundry facilities across the country, including hazards that led to the March 2007 death of Cintas worker Eleazar Torres-Gomez.
“The safety and well-being of our employee-partners is, and has always been, a top priority at Cintas,” says Scott Farmer, Cintas chief executive officer. “This settlement closes a difficult chapter for our company, yet opens another of optimism and continued progress. With OSHA’s help, our goal is not only to achieve world-class safety across every Cintas operation in North America, but also to provide a conduit for improved safety across our entire industry.”
Cintas agrees to pay $2.76 million (90% of the amount originally proposed) for citations in Cintas laundry facilities under OSHA’s federal jurisdiction. Cintas will also continue to work with industrial laundry manufacturers to identify additional, permanent safety solutions to the wash area equipment used in the industry.
All of the cases involve OSHA citations for failing to lock out hazardous energy sources on industrial laundry equipment while employees were servicing the equipment. And in the most tragic incident, Torres-Gomez was killed when he fell into a dryer while attempting to correct a jammed conveyor.
“This agreement ensures that Cintas employees in federal OSHA states nationwide will receive the protections mandated by OSHA's standards,” says acting Assistant Secretary of Labor for OSHA Thomas M. Stohler. “Cintas also has agreed to a number of other measures that will help create a more safety-conscious corporate culture. This settlement agreement makes such measures binding on the company.”
“As a member of Cintas’ Executive Safety Council, I have seen firsthand the company’s deep commitment to the safety and well-being of its employee-partners,” says John Henshaw, former Assistant Secretary of Labor and former OSHA administrator. “I am confident that Cintas will continue to work closely with OSHA and look forward to helping drive Cintas to world-class safety standards.”
Workers’ union UNITE HERE has expressed disappointment, saying that the settlement downgrades the severity of the violations issued against Cintas. The union contends that the settlement allows for a two-year delay in many plants across the country in guarding the kind of machines that caused the death of Torres-Gomez, and that it fails to provide a schedule for OSHA oversight and inspections.
“Cintas has been cited for these problems time and time again, and has acknowledged these problems internally for years,” says Eric Frumin, health and safety director of UNITE HERE. “That’s why OSHA should be strictly monitoring the company, but there are no plans for follow-up inspections in the agreement. The remedies in this settlement are no substitute for strict enforcement of our nation’s workplace safety laws.”
Cintas employees in 15 states covered by state OSHA plans remain unprotected by this agreement, even though inspectors have found the kinds of hazards that led to Torres-Gomez’s death in three states and five separate facilities since March 2007, UNITE HERE claims.