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OSHA to Investigate “Unsafe” Conditions for Supermarket Janitors

OSHA will look into complaints that some janitorial workers in the Bay State are being required to carry propane to and from work in their personal vehicles. (Industry Cooperation Trust Fund)
OSHA will look into complaints that some janitorial workers in the Bay State are being required to carry propane to and from work in their personal vehicles. (Industry Cooperation Trust Fund)
August 15, 2016

BOSTON -- An investigation into the grocery business in Massachusetts uncovered "major safety risks" for some janitorial subcontractors at local Stop and Shop stores.

There's no question people want clean and shiny floors when they shop for groceries, said Mike Gallagher, director at the Industry Cooperation Trust Fund, a labor-management industry watchdog group. The study uncovered concerns about workers having to carry flammable containers of propane to and from the Stop and Shop stores.

"They're required to carry the propane tanks that are used to power the buffing machines they use to clean the floors,” Gallagher said, "to and from the workplace, in their own personal cars."

In a response, the company said, "There is no issue that Stop and Shop takes more seriously than the safety of its customers and associates.”

While the janitorial employees work for subcontractors, Stop and Shop is responding to an OSHA order to conduct an internal investigation, because the alleged risks happened in its stores.

According to Gallagher, Stop and Shop could take a cue from Target. That retailer developed a more responsible way of storing and transporting volatile equipment like propane tanks.

"The better practice, the safer practice,” Gallagher said, "is to do what other retailers do; namely to keep the tanks in a safe, locked cabinet at the rear of the store, and have the deliveries done by a company that specializes in delivery of propane."

He said OSHA is also investigating worker complaints involving health problems from exposure to some of the chemicals involved in the floor-buffing process.

"Many report symptoms of illnesses - like headache, nausea, dizziness - from the chemicals,” Gallagher said. "The companies provide no training and no protective equipment, like masks and gloves."

The Industry Cooperation Trust Fund is a labor-industry watchdog group. Its probe also uncovered health concerns in New Hampshire and Rhode Island.

Mike Clifford, Public News Service - MA