For immediate release
August 17, 2007
The Cintas Corp. is facing the largest fine ever for safety violations in the service sector after the horrific death of employee Eleazar Torres Gomez. The U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) cited the Ohio-based uniform company for not providing the required lifesaving protections at its laundries in Tulsa, Oklahoma, where Mr. Torres Gomez was killed, and in Columbus, Ohio.
“The thought of how my father must have suffered haunts me and my family everyday,” said Emmanuel Torres, one of four of Mr. Torres Gomez’s surviving children, in a statement. “We hope our loss will not be in vain, and that Cintas will fix the unsafe conditions in Tulsa and throughout the country.”
In a historic citation, OSHA has proposed a penalty of $2.78 million for violations in Cintas’s Tulsa facility. This fine is more than four times larger than the previous largest penalty in the service sector for health and safety violations. Safety inspectors reported 46 illegal hazards in the Tulsa laundry—including 42 “willful” violations. At least one citation was for not protecting workers from the equipment involved in Mr. Torres Gomez’s death. Willful violations are committed with “intentional disregard” for the law or “plain indifference” to worker safety.
OSHA proposed an additional $117,500 fine for many of the same life threatening conditions in Cintas’s Columbus laundry—just over 80 miles from Cintas’s headquarters in Mason, Ohio.
“Cintas has a shameful pattern of illegally endangering workers’ lives,” said UNITE HERE General President Bruce Raynor. “Even after this tragedy, Cintas workers say they continue to work in the same deadly conditions. Cintas should not be able to ignore its moral and legal obligation to provide a safe workplace for all employees.”
On March 6, Eleazar Torres Gomez was working in the Tulsa laundry’s automated washroom. He was caught on a conveyor and dragged into an industrial dryer—where he was trapped in temperatures up to 300 degrees for at least 20 minutes. He died on the scene of trauma and thermal injuries. Cintas CEO Scott Farmer issued a press release blaming Mr. Torres Gomez for his own death soon after the fatality.
Members of the U.S. House’s Workforce Protections Subcommittee led by Rep. Lynn Woolsey (D-Calif.) called for OSHA to conduct a nationwide investigation into hazards at all of Cintas’s laundries after the death of Mr. Torres Gomez and a gruesome worker injury in Yakima, Washington. Inspectors in Washington State cited Cintas last week for a violation similar to the one that led to Mr. Torres Gomez’s death. While OSHA announced additional investigations in Arkansas and Alabama, it has yet to carry out the requested national investigation of Cintas’s operations in 47 states.
Cintas may appeal the citation, which would delay the requirement to fix these potentially lethal hazards for months if not years.
Cintas workers throughout North America are standing with UNITE HERE and the Teamsters to gain better, safer jobs. Currently, both unions represent roughly 400 Cintas workers. For more information, please visit www.uniformjustice.org