Another Cintas Worker Dies In Incident Related to Industrial Dryer

A second Cintas employee in less than 5 years has been killed in an incident involving an industrial dryer. Kevin Burgess of Louisville, Ky., was killed Oct. 28 while servicing an industrial dryer at the company’s facility in the Louisville area. The local coroner has ruled that Burgess died of blunt force trauma.

Local authorities and Kentucky's Division of Compliance, the agency responsible for the enforcement of Kentucky's Occupational Safety and Health Standards, are investigating the death of Burgess, who reportedly came in early that morning to service the dryer. A coworker discovered Burgess' body inside the dryer, after it apparently started up while he was working on it. Cintas is working with authorities to determine the cause of the energization of the washer.

On March 8, 2007, Cintas employee Eleazar Torres-Gomez died after being pulled into an industrial dryer. At the time, Cintas claimed Torres-Gomez "did not follow established safety rules, which would have prevented [the] tragic accident." That statement from Cintas, in which the company was perceived to be blaming the worker for his death, outraged workers, unions and legislators, who used the opportunity to criticize what they felt was OSHA's lack of enforcement and oversight of workplace safety and health conditions.

In December 2008, OSHA reached an agreement with Cintas Inc. requiring the company to pay almost $3 million in penalties to resolve six cases – one of which was related to the death of Torrez-Gomez – that were pending before the Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission. In addition to the fine, Cintas agreed to make substantial safety and health enhancements at all of its commercial laundry facilities regulated by federal OSHA. The company also agreed to retain an auditor; hire an expert in hazard analysis and controls to review Cintas facilities and recommend permanent controls; and retain additional experts to review Cintas' safety and health management systems to recommend improvements to those systems.

Cintas employees such as Burgess who are in 15 states covered by state OSHA plans are unprotected by the 2008 agreement. Federal and state inspectors have issued citations to Cintas facilities in Alabama, Arkansas, California, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, Oklahoma, Texas and Washington since Torres Gomez's death.

In a statement following Burgess' death, Cintas said the company "is devastated to have learned about the accident that took the life of one of our employee-partners at our uniform rental facility in Louisville overnight. Our deepest heartfelt sympathy is extended to his family."

The statement went on to say: "The safety and security of our employee-partners is a priority at Cintas and we are shaken by this news. The company remains focused on providing support to the family and his co-workers at the facility. A thorough investigation has begun to determine the cause of this accident."

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