Bob’s Tire, a tire recycling company in New Bedford, Massachusetts and BJ’s Temp Service, a temporary agency that is a joint employer, were recently fined after an investigation found numerous health and safety hazards. There were twelve violations that were labeled as serious against Bob’s Tire along with five other than serious violations. There were two serious violations found against BJ’s Temp Service.
These hazards and violations include unguarded platforms, untrained forklift operators, gas cylinders not stored properly, no head protection, no hazard communication training for employees who are exposed to hazardous chemicals and unsanitary bathrooms that were not stocked with soap or had hot running water. There are also sections of machinery that aren’t properly safeguarded. The proposed penalties against Bob’s Tire total over $100,000 and the amount for BJ’s Temp Service total over $10,000.
When the workers at Bob’s Tire voted in favor of union representation, they did so for many reasons including wages, benefits, dignity, respect, fair treatment but also very importantly for safe working conditions. In our conversations with workers, we learned of many unsafe working conditions and health hazards that workers are exposed to on a daily basis. After having these conversations, the head of the UFCW Health & Safety Department met with workers from Bob’s Tire to learn more about their workplace safety issues. The workers and the union then proceeded to file a complaint with OSHA, a federal agency whose mission is to “assure safe and healthful working conditions for working men and women by setting and enforcing standards and by providing training, outreach, education and assistance”.
OSHA investigated Bob’s Tire in 2004 and issued them a fine of $45,000 for numerous health and safety hazards, many of which are the same violations that they were cited for again. The UFCW is a strong advocate for workplace safety and will make sure these violations get and remain corrected. In fact, workers have already seen some positive changes. There is now a labeled “hard hat” area and workers who operate the machinery now have been provided the proper safety protection. Also, bathrooms have been stocked with soap, a new water heater has been installed, there has been a training conducted for forklift operators, and there will be an upcoming training on the chemicals which the workers are exposed to.
While we continue to fight for a fair contract for these workers, we are pleased with OSHA’s investigation and the fact that these hard workers will have a safer place of work.