Although the Cintas Corp. is quick to issue press releases about items like its "best corporate bathroom" contest, the Mason-based uniform supplier managed to keep quiet until now the latest in a long series of fines imposed by workplace safety regulators.
The Indiana Labor Department in mid-March cited Cintas for two violations at its Fort Wayne industrial laundry facility. State regulators imposed a $1,625 fine, which the company is likely to appeal.
After two recent inspections, state regulators determined Cintas violated he machine-guarding standard in the facility’s wash alley area because the shuttle conveyor belt could crush workers and the washers were not interlocked to prevent the drums from rotating while the doors are open.
The inspection began almost one year to the day after an incident at a Cintas facility in Yakima, Wash., in which a similarly-unguarded washer almost ripped off a worker’s arm when a uniform sticking out of the washer drum caught his arm, wrapped around it repeatedly, and flipped the worker three times before he was able to hit the stop switch.
Indiana regulators classified the March violation as “serious” and ordered that the problem must be corrected by earlier this month.
Last summer the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) proposed an unprecedented $2.78 million fine against Cintas for violations that led to the death of Eleazar Torres-Gomez at the company’s laundry facility near Tulsa, Okla., in March 2007.
Gomez died after he jumped onto a conveyor belt to dislodge clothes that had become jammed on their way from an industrial washer to a large dryer. Gomez was dragged into the dryer, where he was trapped for 20 minutes in a compartment where temperatures reach 300 degrees Fahrenheit, until another worker discovered his badly burnt corpse.
Two years earlier OSHA fined Cintas for not installing guardrails and other protective equipment at a suburban New York laundry on machinery similar to equipment involved in the Tulsa incident.
Cintas has been cited for more than 170 OSHA violations in its facilities since 2003; of that number, more than 70 citations were violations that OSHA determined could cause “death or serious physical harm.”
Some Congress members have urged OSHA to conduct a comprehensive review of all Cintas facilities nationwide, but so far the agency has resisted. Company representatives have said Cintas training programs that teach workers how to properly operate machinery are sufficient.
— Kevin Osborne