OSHA administrator David Michaels has said the federal agency uses news releases about fines against employers to shame the companies into improving safety. Does this bad publicity actually get companies to improve safety? That remains to be seen, but one employer is losing business over bad safety publicity.
Starbucks has ended business with flavoring manufacturer Sensient Flavors of Indianapolis. Campbell Soup may do the same.
This comes within a week of an article in The Indianapolis Star that outlined a variety of safety concerns at the facility.
The Star’s article documented a four-year battle between the manufacturer and state and federal regulators over harmful chemical fumes at the plant.
An investigation by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) showed some workers were exposed to more than 400 times the recognized safe level of diacetyl, a flavoring chemical associated with a life-threatening disease known both as bronchiolitis obliterans and popcorn lung. The flavoring is used in microwave popcorn and other products.
Officials said workers at the plant were also exposed to 10 times the permissible limit of hydrogen sulfide and unsafe levels of acetic acid.
Indiana OSHA issued 37 citations against Sensient for a total of $367,500.
The company is contesting the fines. Also along the way, Sensient sought court orders to keep inspectors out of its plant.
The Star published the history of this case, going back to 2008, in its Aug. 19 edition.
The article noted Sensient’s clients included McDonalds, Ben & Jerry’s, Starbucks and Campbell Soup.
One week later, the newspaper reported Starbucks was ending its association with Sensient and Campbell Soup was considering doing the same, pending its own investigation.
“We have decided to cease future business with Sensient Flavors while we examine whether the company is operating at the high ethical standards we expect of our suppliers,” said a Starbucks spokesman.
“It is something we are currently investigating,” said a spokesman for Campbell Soup. “We are going to do our own investigation … and take appropriate action.”
Do you think Starbucks has made the right decision? Let us know what you think in the comments below.