Unions Demand OSHA Probe of Cintas

The March 6 death of an industrial laundry worker at a uniform laundry facility has prompted two major labor unions to ask OSHA to determine whether criminal charges against the employer are warranted.

UNITE HERE and the International Brotherhood of Teamsters are asking OSHA to launch a full investigation into the death of Eleazar Torres-Gomez, who died after being dragged into an industrial dryer at a Cintas Corp. facility in Tulsa, Okla. According to media reports, Torres-Gomez was trapped for 20 minutes in the dryer, which could reach temperatures as high as 300 degrees.

“Eleazar Torres-Gomez’s death should be a wake-up call to Cintas,” UNITE HERE and International Brotherhood of Teamsters health and safety directors Eric Frumin and Lamont Byrd asserted in a joint statement. “This company has disregarded basic health and safety standards for too long and workers have paid the price. For every horrific incident like this one, there are many workers suffering from debilitating workplace injuries.”

The two unions want OSHA to determine whether criminal prosecution is possible if Cintas willfully violated applicable standards.

Cintas Defends Safety Record

Cintas Vice President J. Bradley McNeese said that the company's management team in Tulsa, Okla., is providing counseling to help employees cope with the loss of their co-worker.

“Our hearts and prayers go out to the friends and family of our Cintas employee-partner Eleazar Torres-Gomez,” McNeese said.

In response to the unions' criticism of the Tulsa facility's safety record, Cintas spokesperson Pamela Lowe said it is “30 percent better than similar-sized facilities” in the same industry.

“Our location is Tulsa has reported some of the highest scores on internal safety compliance requirements, with a management team that is committed to protecting the health and safety of its employees,” Lowe said.

Lowe added that Cintas is cooperating with OSHA and its ongoing investigation.

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