Virginia workplace inspectors cited The Washington Post Co. for five safety violations at its Springfield newspaper production plant.
The report, filed Sept. 7 by the Virginia Department of Labor and Industry Occupational Safety and Health Compliance, was made public yesterday by the union that represents workers who assemble the papers at the Post plant. The agency cites the newspaper with "serious" violations, including negligence for failing to test safety devices that would shut down heavy equipment in case of emergency, a process called lockout. The company was also cited for failing to test chemicals emitted by a machine that fuses the plastic strips that bundle newspapers and for having unguarded high speed conveyors.
"The mailers have a substantial amount of safety concerns," said Communications Workers of America spokesman Greg Kenefick. "It's just a nasty, difficult job."
"The Virginia agency conducted an inspection and raised some items it believed needed attention. We are in the process of reviewing those items with the agency," said Eric Grant, a Post Co. spokesman. State officials could not be reached for comment Friday night.
The fine was set at $12,500. It could be lowered if the company and the agency agree that violations have been promptly addressed.
The Post has been negotiating for the past 18 months to renew a contract with the mailers' union. The contract expired about a year ago, Kenefick said. "There have been lots of issues and contention," he said.
Grant would not comment on whether any employees of the Springfield or College Park printing plants has been injured on the job, but Kenefick said he did not think that was the case. Grant said he is not aware of any ongoing review of the College Park plant for similar violations.
The Virginia Department of Labor and Industry cited The Washington Post Co. in 2001 for violations of lockout procedures at the Springfield facility and initially fined the company $5,150, according to Occupational Safety and Health Administration records. The company paid a portion of the fine and fixed the violations, records indicate.
In 1999, The Post Co. was fined $5,425 for "serious violations" at its College Park plant related to stairs, railings and wall openings, and for lockout procedures, according to OSHA records. The company agreed to an informal settlement, records show.