THE RENAISSANCE PROVIDENCE HOTEL disputes complaints filed by employees about alleged rashes and injuries due to chemical exposure, allegations for which Rhode Island OSHA has proposed fining the hotel $8,000. Hotel workers and community supporters are planning a protest today at 5 p.m. at the hotel.
PROVIDENCE - The Rhode Island division of the Occupational Safety & Health Administration has proposed fining the Renaissance Providence Hotel $8,000 for alleged exposure to corrosive chemicals and other issues, allegations the hotel disputes.
According to Bob Sestito, assistant area director for Rhode Island OSHA, two complaints filed by employees about alleged rashes and injuries due to chemical exposure were not substantiated, but the investigation that began April 29 resulted in other, related findings.
According to OSHA’s Oct. 8 citation, two findings, labeled “serious” and assigned fines of $4,000 each, include routinely exposing employees’ hands, arms and faces to corrosive and irritating chemicals in housekeeping and laundry areas and not performing a workplace-hazard assessment, as well as not providing suitable facilities for quick flushing of eyes in areas where such chemicals were being stored or used.
A third finding, with no fine attached, determined that the hotel did not ensure that the safety gate was closed when not in use at the outside loading dock on the Francis Street side of the building.
UNITE HERE Local Union 217, which states that workers filed a petition with hotel management in March to form a union, in an Oct. 22 press release called the OSHA citations “a vindication” for workers.
“Hotel management allowed these dangerous conditions to exist because workers have no voice at the hotel,” housekeeper Santa Brito said in the release. “I am proud the workers stood up to stop this.”
UNITE HERE Local 217 represents hotel and food-service workers in Connecticut and Rhode Island. Workers and community supporters are planning a protest today at 5 p.m. at the hotel.
Richard MacAdams, chief legal counsel for the Procaccianti Group, the hotel’s owner, said that the hotel does not have a petition seeking to allow employees to form a union.
While the owners have not yet formally appealed, they are challenging the OSHA findings in an Oct. 30 conference with OSHA, MacAdams said.
MacAdams noted that the specific findings shared by OSHA with the owners differ from what is detailed in the citations. He said owners were told that one of two eyewash stations had water higher than what OSHA regulations permit, the loading dock was left in an upright position, and that training of employees in the use of chemicals, which has occurred, had not been documented.
“The hotel’s position is that the citation doesn’t square with what we understood were the inspector’s findings,” MacAdams said. “That’s what we hope we can address in the informal conference. No one was injured, contrary to what was claimed and the employees are trained in using their personal protective equipment.”
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