In March 2007, Eleazar Torres-Gomez fell into a 300-degree industrial dryer at a Cintas Corp. laundry and died. Instead of shutting off the machinery the seven-year employee climbed onto a slow-moving conveyor to clear a jam of wet laundry. He then jumped up and down on the clump of laundry and fell in. Twenty minutes later, another employee heard Torres-Gomez’s burned body banging around in the dryer and discovered what had happened. Afterward, Cintas ‘ North America’s largest uniform supplier ‘ was hit with a $2.78 million fine by the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration for unsafe practices and inadequate worker training. The company also announced it was posting safety monitors at every laundry where automatic equipment was used.
Unfortunately, this wasn’t the first rodeo for Cintas. In the year and a half after the tragedy in Tulsa, according to Associated Press, at least eight Cintas plants in six states were cited by OSHA and state authorities for hazards similar to those that led to Torres-Gomez’s death. In interviews with Associated Press, some current or former employees told Associated Press that the workers who serve as safety monitors are sometimes pulled from their jobs and assigned to other duties. They also said that employees still risk life and limb to clear laundry tangles at the Cintas plants.
Cincinnati-based Cintas employs 34,000 people and had sales of nearly $4 billion in fiscal 2008. The company supplies and launders uniforms for restaurant and hotel employees and other workers. Cintas disputed the employee allegations, claiming the company has made several safety improvements, including reinforcing training every week and installing devices around the conveyors that sense when someone has gotten too close and shut the system down. Some labor experts believe Cintas needs to go further and say that the company has long regarded fines as just a “cost of doing business.” Kate Bronfenbrenner, an expert at Cornell University on labor-management issues, made this observation: “These fines are parking tickets, and these companies can afford to pay parking tickets.”
Many of the incidents at other Cintas’ plants involved the same type safety problems. It certainly appears that the company’s employees are at risk for serious injury or death. Hopefully, somebody will soon be able to get management’s attention!
Source: Associated Press
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