A judge’s ruling supports the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s citing and fining a Massachusetts company over hazards at its West Caldwell facility that included bloodborne pathogens and lead, OSHA said Thursday.Drivers and loading-dock workers at the UniFirst Corp., a supplier of uniforms, industrial wear and other clothing, picked up and sorted dirty clothing from customers who regularly drew or tested blood, as well as laundry that had been contaminated with lead, OSHA said. A 2011 inspection by the Parsippany Area Office revealed these problems, as well as a lack of proper training and Hepatitis B vaccinations for workers.
OSHA cited the company for seven violations tied to its Bloodborne Pathogens Standard and for exposure to lead hazards in 2012, proposing $186,000 in penalties. UniFirst contested the citations, and a five-day hearing was held in Newark in May 2013. In a Sept. 30 ruling, Administrative Law Judge Carol Baumerich affirmed all of the citations and penalties.
“UniFirst’s plain indifference to OSHA’s requirements compromised the safety and health of its workers,” Robert Kulick, OSHA’s regional administrator in New York, said in a prepared statement. “The judge’s decision in this case sends a strong message to UniFirst and other employers: Those who ignore their legal responsibility to provide safe and healthyworkplaces for employees will be held accountable.”
The judge ruled that UniFirst management “routinely and intentionally” falsified training sign-in sheets, OSHA said, among other issues.
UniFirst had 20 days from the date the ruling is docketed with the Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission to appeal it. The commission is an independent federal agency that decides contestation of citations or penalties resulting from OSHA inspections.
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