The related fines total $38,500, to be paid within 15 working days.
The citations were the result of an inspection between Nov. 30, 2012 and March 21. They were brought to light in a press release from immigrant rights group Voces de la Frontera on Tuesday.
Seven of the citations issued to Palermo Villa were serious, while one was other-than-serious. They related to the company’s lack of safety and procedural training on its ammonia refrigeration system.
Palermo representatives will meet with OSHA to discuss the citations and then determine which actions to take from there, said company spokesman Evan Zeppos.
“On May 17, our company was provided with the preliminary results of a recent OSHA inspection of our facility. We are reviewing the details of the OSHA inspection and plan to meet with OSHA officials to review them more closely,” said company president and chief executive officer Giacoma Fallucca in a prepared statement. “As a matter of every day practice, Palermo’s takes workplace safety issues very seriously, and the most important goal we have is to operate at a high standard. We will continue our record of cooperating with OSHA to help ensure that we operate in the best possible way and meet or exceed all safety and operating standards.”
Voces also brought to light a recent injury at Palermo’s in which an employee had three fingers severed. The company released the following statement regarding the Voces reports.
“Regrettably, earlier this month, an employee was involved in an accident that resulted in three fingers being severed,” Fallucca said in the statement. “Our prayers go out to this person and his family, and while we want to respect the employee’s privacy, we have ensured the individual and his family that he has our full support going forward. We train all of our employees to safely and properly operate all equipment, and in this particular case, additional training was provided to ensure that all safety procedures were followed closely. Unfortunately, the accident still occurred, and we continue to investigate the matter, monitor the situation and offer help as appropriate.”
The injury, which occurred May 7, was not covered in the May 17 OSHA report because the inspection occurred before the incident. The company has not received any communication from OSHA regarding the injury, Zeppos said.
“We take quite seriously both the OSHA report and the accident. Safety is the ongoing, top priority, and we will continue to work closely with OSHA and our workers,” Fallucca said. “However, it is inappropriate and highly regrettable that those involved in the year-long attacks on our company are using this situation to score cheap political points like a candidate who is way behind in the polls. Their conduct shows a blatant disregard for accuracy, honesty and truthfulness. We continue to believe that the best course of action for our workers would be to allow them to vote on whether or not they want to recognize and form a union. That is a decision that the workers should make, and our company will respect whatever their decision is.”
In addition, Voces released a cover letter from OSHA to Fallucca. The Department of Labor confirmed the letter is from its office.
The letter states that Palermo violated an OSHA standard when it redacted copies of its recordable injury logs for the years 2008 to 2011 when an authorized employee representative requested them for the last five years to present.
“It is recommended to correct this deficiency that you, the employer, immediately provide the original requester copies of the un-redacted OSHA logs for at least the periods specified in the request, as well as the current log year-to-date,” the letter said.
Voces alleged in its release that the company has “covered up” injuries since 2008. A group of Palermo employees has been trying to form a union for a year, citing unfair labor practices and unsafe working conditions.
The National Labor Relations Board on April 29 issued a final ruling, denying the appeal of a regional ruling that cleared Palermo Villa Inc. of all "significant charges" that had been filed by the Palermo Workers Union, led by Voces de la Frontera.
“Dangerous working conditions at Palermo’s drove us to seek union recognition and the ability to address safety issues without fear of reprisal,” said Cesar Hernandez, a Palermo Worker Union member, in the Voces release. “Union representation would enable workers to establish our own workplace safety committees and address the safety issues that we know are serious, even if Palermo’s is unwilling to do so.”