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OSHA Puts Company Through the Inspection Ringer in Three States

Federal OSHA and California OSHA have proposed penalties totaling more than $120,000 against Angelica Textile Services for exposing laundry workers to health and safety hazards in its plants in Edison, N.J., Rockmart, Ga., and Orange, Calif.

OSHA cited Angelica's plant in Edison for nine violations of occupational safety and health laws with fines of $67,500. The agency proposed a penalty of $55,000 for one willful violation. A classification of the violation as willful indicates that the employer showed either an intentional violation of OSHA standards or plain indifference to its requirements. The willful violation was issued for allowing employees to climb inside tunnel-like washers where soiled hospital linens are cleaned in harsh chemicals. Workers climbed inside the washer to free laundry that would occasionally get jammed. In addition, the company did not have a safety plan to rescue the workers inside the washers in case they were injured or incapacitated. Angelica also had no lockout/tagout program in place to ensure that the washers could not be turned on while workers were inside them.

OSHA fined Angelica Textile Services' Rockmart facility $50,000 for exposing employees to similar serious health and safety hazards. OSHA found that some workers in the Rockmart plant had been assigned to enter the tunnel washers without gloves or shoes, despite the presence of harsh laundering chemicals.

Serious health violations cited by the agency included unsanitary conditions as evidenced by dried fecal matter, dirty diapers, debris and contaminated laundry scattered throughout the sorting platform and stairway areas, and unsafe procedures for disposing of contaminated syringes and other sharp implements found during manual sorting of hospital linen.

CalOSHA cited Angelica's plant in Orange for several violations amounting to $3,675 in proposed fines, including improperly guarded conveyors and inadequate protection for workers who handle soiled hospital laundry.

Belinda Thielen, a safety and health expert with UNITE HERE, a union representing laundry workers, claimed, "There is no excuse for Angelica to have exposed their employees to these potentially life-threatening hazards. I salute the workers who had the courage to challenge these horrific working conditions, and I congratulate OSHA on their thorough investigation."

Angelica Textile Services, a division of St. Louis-based Angelica Corp. (NYSE:AGL), is a large healthcare laundry provider with 28 plants throughout the country.

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