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Complaints Account for 1/3 of OSHA Inspections

OSHA official's address at TRSA conference is a curtain-raiser for TRSA's May Safety Summit 

Federal OSHA inspected textile services facilities 177 times in 2011, with 62 prompted by complaints (most likely by employees) and 27 by referrals (other government agencies) and four due to accidents. Another 66 were programmed inspections, many motivated by the agency’s efforts to prevent amputations. Twenty were follow-ups to previous inspections.

These were among the statistics discussed with TRSA members on March 27 by Richard Fairfax, deputy assistant U.S. labor secretary who heads the agency’s enforcement corps. Speaking at TRSA’s Leadership & Legislative Conference in Washington, most of the figures he presented were reflections of the agency’s overall enforcement reach and effectiveness. He offered advice on what operators in any industry should expect when OSHA inspects their facilities, from initial notification to contesting penalties.

Referring to textile services specifically, he observed that about 60% of the industry’s violations were serious; the average penalty per infraction was $969. There were no willful or repeat violations; in giving similar presentations to various industries, Fairfax said he had never encountered such a clean record in this respect. Textile services are also exceptional in their challenges to penalties, with 18% of these contested. Compared with the 11% for all industries, that’s “way through the roof,” Fairfax said.

The top five safety rules deemed violations by inspectors in their perusal of laundry facilities were blood-borne pathogens, hazard communications, electrical wiring methods, lockout/tagout and confined space. These five accounted for the lion’s share of citations, he said, indicating that highlighting any others would be “kind of meaningless.”

Fairfax’s presentation served as a prelude to the upcoming TRSA Safety Summit, “Safer Together,” when industry executives will travel to Minneapolis May 21-22 to develop the basis for industry best safety practices in various facets of textile services operations.  The discussion will capture the broadest range of ideas the committee has ever considered in recommends policy on industrywide improvement to the TRSA Board of Directors. The summit is expected to spur the development of new programming, such as best practices documentation, conference presentations, videos and other training resources.