Safety and OSHA News

Video captures moments leading to worker fatality

Workplace cameras captured a practice used by several workers at a Cintas laundry facility in Tulsa, OK: They’d climb onto large conveyors to dislodge stuck piles of clothing going into industrial dryers. One camera also recorded Eleazar Torres Gomez as he was pulled into one of the dryers — an incident that led to his death.

ABC News included the video as part of a Nightline story on workplace safety and OSHA.

OSHA fined Cintas $2.75 million for violations of safety rules involving the dryers, a result of investigations after Gomez’s death.

The ABC News piece is worth watching for another reason: In it, OSHA administrator David Michaels says, “There is an epidemic of programs that discourage workers from reporting injuries.”

He mentioned incentive programs that reward workers when there are no reported injuries.

The piece goes on to tell the story of two Smurfit-Stone workers who say they were directly discouraged from reporting workplace injuries by their supervisors.

Michaels made it clear OSHA is looking for companies that hide injuries. “We know we’re not getting accurate figures, and we need to do something about that,” Michaels said.

Does your company have a safety incentive program that rewards employees for something other than a lack of injuries? Let us know about it in the Comments Box below.

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  • sheralroh

    Again, I say that some companies are diligent in the enforcement of their safety programs, but employees like to see if they can get away with no following the rules. It’s sort of like a game for some of them. How about some employee responsibility.

  • Jen

    We have an informal incentive program where employees are nominated for an award by the safety committee for overall safe behavior.

  • Robert

    Management will be held accountable if they are not maintaining good training and discupinary records. It’s the first thing OSHA inspectors look at after being held for one hour in a briefing room.

    As long as the records are up to date and current then the employee will be held accountable.

    OSHA primarily goes after the deep pockets. Their income is based off the fines they issue, so small companies really don’t have anything to worry about.

    We had a person loose two fingers from getting them smashed between a metal square tubing and the rack it was stored on. It was reported but we’ve never seen any OSHA inspector.

    I was thinking about starting an incentive program then figured not to do it because people will start hiding their accidents and injuries in order to get the point cards for the free prizes from a catalog.

  • Akula

    ? employee resposibility? It is obvious they had a process problem. if the company made the loads on the convyer small enough to fit into the mouth of the dryer, the machine operators would not be so used to going up there to force the blockage through the opening. Looked to be a common thing they had to do each shift. Easily recognizable by management and easily predictible that sooner or later someone was going to end up in a dryer with the load. Cintas diserves all the negative press it gets out of this. Every company wants to live and die by the weekly production numbers. They dont care what it takes to get the numbers on target.

  • TEXASBIGFOOT

    I am Safety Coordinator for a company that has a Safety Incentive Program. Truthfully, I don’t see that it has any effect on employee behavior when it comes to safety. We conduct monthly safety meetings and the next day we do a plant safety tour.
    We are constantly finding the same offenses over and over again. Stuff like someone leaving a pallet three to four feet from a door that has high traffic, creating a, for sure, trip and fall hazard, constantly blocked exits, fire extingishers, safety shower/eye wash baths etc. It really gets on my nerves but the ones responsible for those issues are the ones that are most likely to be injuried by them.
    Last year, I even tried making our company safety motto for the year, “Reconizing Safety Hazards Can Prevent Accidents.” Do you think it sunk in to any brains? Don’t think so, the same issues still popped up month after month until I finally realized….no body really to care.
    So, paid safety meetings, safety incentive program, plant safety tours. Over 30 H&S videos viewed by each plant personnel per year, anual H&S Quiz Contest with the winner receiving a prize and reconition at our annual Christmas Lunch, etc. What more can be done? The company fully supports a safety program that no one takes seriously. We just had a OSHA Reportable Injury last night because an operator opened a valve containing 375°F material and got his hands burned.

  • MZ

    Years ago we had various safety incentives but they didn’t seem to make a difference then. I stopped looking at injury numbers and started looking at the environment. Replaced equipment, built a maintenance schedule, built a training schedule, looked at managerial controls.

    When the workers noticed action being taken on their suggestions, I got more suggestions. As a group we got down to looking at repetitions, dangers and recording certain employee-defined problem areas. (The recorder cost the same amount of money as a quarter’s worth of safety incentives)

    Now that we’re in the habit of looking at how to control the environment, we’ve started to build a safety incentive again, but it’s based on completion of certain long term projects, like area auditing and training protocols. Anyone have experience with this type of incentive?

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  • Dave B

    I believe incentives given to employees for not having injuries do nothing to improve safety, they just discourage employees from reporting injuries. A incentive program should reward employees as they are observed safe behavior and proper methods. Reward people for identifying minor incidents, unsafe conditions and better ways to do things. Apply progressive discipline for late reporting of injuries and using unsafe methods.
    I actually think OSHA should stop worrying about recordable injuries and tell employers to keep a list of all injuries, illnesses, property damage incidents, near misses, and unsafe conditions. The employer should be able to produce a list of activities and corrective actions taken or being implemented to improve them. If the list reflects actual conditions and is actively being worked, no problem, if the list shows no recent activity, OSHA should provide them with a financial incentive.