The Massachusetts Coalition for Occupational Safety and Health (MassCOSH) has recently conducted an assessment of workplace safety at Angelica Textile Services, operating under the name of Royal Institutional Services, in Somerville, Massachusetts. The investigation was prompted by multiple worker complaints in regards to illnesses, injuries, and long-term health problems due to a dangerous and unhealthy working environment. MassCOSH´s findings were recently published in a >report that was compiled from this recent workplace safety assessment. As reported in OSHA Cites Somerville Commercial Laundry Service After Employee Injury, the company was also cited by the hand was compressed in a large iron. The company’s Somerville facility was also cited by OSHA in 2006 for hazardous waste and protective equipment safety hazards.
After OSHA´s findings in June, MassCOSH interviewed and observed 113 Angelica employees in July to document health problems and injuries thought to have been caused by working conditions. The majority of workers interviewed experienced health problems that they believed were due to their work in the laundry factory. Pain in the shoulders, back and wrist injuries were most common. Many other workers complained of neck, foot, leg, and knee pain. One unidentified worker said, “As a leader on my line I have to force my co-workers to perform more than what they can.”
When the workers were asked about working conditions that might have contributed to their health problems, workers repeatedly referred to the employer’s recent increase in work output quotas as a significant factor contributing to these injuries or chronic pain. Another unidentified employee was quoted: “I’ve been working at Angelica for more than 20 years. They gave me a written warning because I do not perform at 100% of [the newly implemented] production [quotas]. I’m in pain, my joints hurt. And, I’m very worried about my health.”
In addition to interviewing the workers, MassCOSH also conducted a review of tasks and protocol of cleaning soiled hospital linens and a chemical hazard review of cleaning products and relevant standards of manufacturers’ safety recommendations for the products and toxicology information.
MassCOSH found the following safety hazards during their investigation:
• Majority of employees are extremely physically fatigued while operating machinery. Workers seem to be experiencing an increase in pain and work-related injuries due to the increased production quota.
• Health and safety training is insufficient and not in the language of all of the workers.
• Poor maintenance and frequent breakdown of machinery exposes workers to chemical fumes and unnecessary chemical spills.
• Inadequate employee clothing to protect workers from soiled or contaminated laundry (such as blood-borne pathogens found in hospital laundry).
• Overcrowded work areas which block emergency exits.
• Increased risk of musculoskeletal injuries due to maneuvering heavy carts of laundry.
• A demeaning and hostile work environment hinders employees from speaking up about unsafe work conditions.
If you or your loved one has been injured in the workplace or suffers from chronic pain due to work, it is advised that you contact an experienced Massachusetts workers' compensation lawyer.
Angelica Textile Services Assessment Report, Massachusetts Coalition for Occupational Safety and Health, August, 2011
US Labor Department's OSHA cites Somerville, Mass., commercial laundry for safety hazards following worker injury, OSHA Regional News Release, June 28, 2011
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