Windy City Supplier Responds to OSHA Charges

Posted May 1, 2015 at 12:48 pm

Chicago Dryer Co. is facing as much as $102,600 in proposed penalties related to charges of safety violations, including damaged equipment and lack of training, according to media reports, a news release and documentation from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).

However, Paul Naylor, technical services manager for the company that manufactures ironers and other flatwork finishing equipment, said in an interview with Textile Services Weekly that an informal settlement agreement is now under review by the agency and Chicago Dryer. Company and agency officials met on April 28. Naylor said that talks could lead to a further reduction of the proposed fines and modification of the charges facing Chicago Dryer, which has manufactured laundry equipment in the city since 1886.

“We have been working cooperatively with OSHA since Day 1,” Naylor said. “They have had full access to all employees, and we are moving to correct any problems that led to these citations as quickly as possible. The safety of our employees is our top priority, and it’s important that we resolve these charges in a collaborative fashion.”

The issue of alleged safety violations at Chicago Dryer dates back to October 2014 when OSHA investigators conducted an inspection of the company in response to an employee complaint. In all, they charged the company with 20 violations, including one willful violation, which puts employees at risk for serious and potentially fatal injuries, said Angeline Loftus, director of OSHA’s Chicago North Area Office in Des Plaines, IL, in a news release. Naylorsaid the company has raised questions about various charges, including the willful violation. Chicago Dryer believes that this citation was triggered by a violation that occurred in 1983, he said. The company is seeking clarification on that previous violation that the agency says occurred 32 years ago.

OSHA also reported that it found damaged crane slings that could be used to carry 3,000-lb. cylinders and press brakes without proper guards, as well as open stairs lacking railings, blocked exit routes and locked exit doors, among other problems. The agency issued a willful violation for the brakes. The company said that the brake manufacturer doesn’t recommend modifications of any kind. However, the company contacted a third-party vendor which has now installed additional safeguards to the unit. OSHA has requested that the company take immediate action to address the use of damaged equipment and lack of training, although this training is done on an annual basis, Naylor said. None of the OSHA-cited violations were previously mentioned to company supervisors, or during routine safety meetings. The company also has retained an outside safety consultant to continue machine-specific training with the first session set for May 11.

Chicago Dryer questions the charges relating to the slings, noting that the specifications marked on cranes were “underrated.” That means that a crane marked for a maximum of 3,500 lbs. was in fact capable of carrying 5,000 lbs. so employees would be very conservative in using this type of equipment. No safety-related incidents involving the cranes have occurred since they were installed more than 30 years ago. Again, however, Chicago Dryer pledged to work with OSHA to clarify these issues and to make certain that any technical, training, documentary or other improvements are made as quickly as possible to assure the agency and employees that the equipment is safe, Naylor said.

Other areas of dispute were both major and minor, Naylor added. For example, the company takes issue with the fact that the agency’s news release described Chicago Dryer as a manufacturer of commercial dryers, when in fact the company specializes in finishing equipment and hasn’t made dryers for over 60 years.

Chicago Dryer also questioned the “blocked exit routes” charge, noting that because it is housed in an older building, some of the 13 first-floor exits are equipped with conventional door knobs instead of “push bars.” The doors were never looked during working hours, but some would require employees to turn a door knob, rather than push a bar. Again, the company pledged to bring the doors up to any modern specifications that the agency requires and this process has begun.

Additional discussions between the company and OSHA officials to address these issues further are expected to take place shortly.   

The company suggests that TRSA members attend the TRSA safety summit later this month, Naylor said. As Chicago Dryer supplies and works closely with many of TRSA’s leading members, it would be to everyone’s benefit, including both employees and management, to learn more about best practices for the safe operation of their laundries, as well as how to effectively sustain an ongoing quality/safety program and – should it ever be necessary – how to deal with OSHA in a professional and effective manner.

Textile Services Weekly is posting this report in part to point out that many companies may find themselves in a similar situation, unless they apply a systematic effort to ensuring continuing compliance with all OSHA safety rules.

TRSA is holding its Fourth Annual Safety Summit on May 13-14 in St. Louis in cooperation with the CSCNetwork to help all companies involved in textile services learn the latest techniques for running their operations safely. The Summit includes several high-profile speakers, such as Richard Fairfax, a former deputy assistant secretary of OSHA, who’ll discuss the most-frequently cited OSHA violations of recent years and related topics.

Beyond the Summit, TRSA offers a wealth of educational materials on safety and OSHA compliance. Click on the links below for more information or to order these publications:

Safety Webinar Bundle – 2015 (includes six webinars on a range of safety topics at one low price)

Managing OSHA Inspections DVD

Webinar: Four Cornerstones of OSHA Compliance

Webinar: OSHA Inspection, Effectively Handling: How to Legally Protect Your Rights

Control of Hazardous Energy DVD (English) or Spanish