The U.S. House Subcommittee on Workforce Protections held a hearing today on workplace safety seeking stronger OSHA enforcement for large, multi-site employers. Members of the subcommittee named Cintas as a prime example of the need for stronger OSHA enforcement. The hearing was prompted by the death last year of Eleazar Torres Gomez, a worker who was killed at a Cintas plant in
“An internal memo dated April 30, 2004 notifies company officials—including regional health and safety coordinators—of ‘an incident that could have resulted in serious injury and possible death,’” said Subcommittee Chairwoman Lynn Woolsey (D-Calif.). Although the memo outlined changes needed to remedy dangerous conditions, “[n]one of these promises were acted upon at the
The memo was issued by Cintas Health and Safety Director Rick Gerlach and addressed to top-level managers around the country. Accompanying this memo was an attachment from then Cintas President Scott Farmer, currently CEO of the company, describing two other incidents in 2000 where employees had climbed onto working laundry conveyors to clear jams and fell into a running washer. The 2004 memo was first made public in a Wall Street Journal article published in today’s edition of the paper.
Illinois Representative Phil Hare said, “I was appalled. . .by the total lack of responsibility that Cintas took for this accident and the way the company treated the Torres Gomez family.” A company statement released by Cintas in the aftermath of the death was described as blaming the victim for his own death.
“The fact that Cintas blamed my father for what truly is a company wide problem is wrong,” said Emmanuel Torres.
Four current and one former Cintas workers attended the hearing and spoke at the press conference that preceded the hearing. They complained of mounting production pressures, repetitive stress injuries, and lack of training at their jobs.
“Even after the death in
Eleazar Torres Gomez was killed in March 2007 after he was pulled by an unguarded, automated conveyor into an industrial drier. He was trapped for 20 minutes in 300 degree heat. Shortly after this tragedy, the Workforce Protections Subcommittee made its first of multiple requests for a company-wide OSHA investigation.
In addition to the $2.78 million dollar proposed fine for the violations in
For more information, visit TheCommittee on Education and Labor Website at edlabor.house.gov/hearings/wp-2008-04-23.shtml.
Photo by Earl Dotter, www.earldotter.com.