Sanitation district under fire for treatment of Hispanic workers

February 25, 2011

By LISA RIZZO

The South San Luis Obispo County Sanitation District is under state scrutiny once again; this time for its alleged treatment of Hispanic and temporary workers.

A complaint was filed with the California Division of Occupational Safety and Health (OSHA). It alleges the Oceano based sanitation plant is violating safety orders found in Title 8 of the California Code of Regulations, which requires the district to “establish, implement and maintain an effective injury and illness prevention program.”

A confidential letter from OSHA, obtained by CalCoastNews, was received by the plant on Monday, Feb. 21. It details the complaint which alleges Hispanic and temporary workers employed at the sanitation plant are not being trained on personal protective equipment and the hazards of the job, unlike their counterparts.

In the letter, OSHA says it has not yet made a determination as to whether the complaint has any grounds. It is, however, requiring the district, which serves Oceano, Grover Beach and Arroyo Grande, to conduct an internal investigation of the alleged hazards and report back to the state organization within 14 days of receiving the notice.

If the sewer plant operator does not meet OSHA’s response requirements, the office says it intends to make an unannounced inspection which could result in the levying of citations and monetary penalties if the allegations are found to be true.

The letter concludes by reminding the district that California law protects employees that make formal complaints about health and safety hazards in the workplace, including protection from being fired or discriminated against.

The complaint is just the latest in a series of challenges for the South San Luis Obispo County Sanitation District within the last few months, including an unlawful termination suit, a massive raw sewage spill, water board violations and compliance issues.

A former shift supervisor and 12 year veteran of the plant, Scott Mascolo, who was terminated last week, was an outspoken critic of safety and compliance issues under the district’s watch.

Mascolo says he had complained to plant administrator, John Wallace, that on many occasions Hispanic and temporary workers were put at risk of respiratory hazards, chemical exposure and even electrocution because they were not given proper training, education and bi-lingual literature particularly on safety and personal protective equipment.

He said the plant favored Hispanic employees for their exceptional work ethic but they were often belittled, intimidated, overworked and denied breaks.


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Paul Anthony

Ms. Kitten,


I am simply passing on the information. Please contact the district or Surfriders for clarification about the start time. By all means, get there early, 5:30, even.


Paul Anthony

Just to clear up any confusion, I am not Brad Snook, though I’m sure I’d like him if I met him.


Just passing this along.


kitten

Mr. Anthony, please check your times as normally the SSLOCSD meetings begin at 6:00pm. Id also like to point out that your correct the Board of directors hasn’t so much as acknowledged the Surf Riders request, nor has Nicolls and Ferrara responded to Mr.Hill’s request three requests to bifurcate engineering and administrative services. How does it feel to disrespected and in a display of absolute defiance be laughed at after you presented your concerns and request.

When you have 4 dishonest politicians against one honest man, (Hill) the result is what your now witnessing and until legal action it taken against these individuals nothing will change.


Paul Anthony

THEY DON’T WANT TO VOTE!!!!!!! So, we need you in Oceano Wednesday March 2 at 6:30pm! 

Wednesday, March 2nd at 6:30pm is the next board of directors meeting for the South SLO County Sanitation District. The district’s agenda for that meeting does not include Surfrider’s requested vote to investigate potential malfeasances by the Wallace Group at their Waste Water Treatment Plant that serves Oceano, Grover Beach, and Arroyo Grande. With public trust sinking fast, it’s time for them to vote! 

Here’s three recent articles about the plant: http://calcoastnews.com/2011/02/employee-files-fraud-lawsuit-against-wallace/ 

http://www.sanluisobispo.com/2011/02/25/1498124/more-litigation-for-south-county.html 

http://calcoastnews.com/2011/02/sanitation-district-fires-second-alleged-whistleblower/ 

WE NEED YOU THERE! Please help us create a “SEA OF BLUE” at Wednesday’s meeting. We are asking people who care about resolving water issues in our county to wear blue and support a call for a vote. Please spread the word! All concerned parties are welcome! 

Meeting held at: 

Oceano Community Services District 1655 Front Street Oceano, California 93475 

Brad Snook Volunteer Coordinator Surfrider Foundation, SLO County 440-9489 


slo@surfrider.org • Surfrider Foundation San Luis Obispo Chapter


Cindy

To hear that the safety manuals aren’t written in the language of non English speaking Employees is mind boggling. I should think that the Workman’s Comp Insurance Carrier would have tagged that issue as a problem when they conducted safety inspections and they would have required the appropriate corrections at that time. I sort of have a hard time believing that these violations could possibly be taking place.


I worked in the Ag industry for several years and all of our safety manuals were required to be in Spanish as well as English because of the Hispanic workers. I also hired a bi-lingual assistant for the HR department to be certain that every Employee, particularly the seasonal migrant workers all were versed in the safety instructions and understood the manuals despite that they were also translated in Spanish. I am talking about instructions that actually seemed almost foolish such as how to place a ladder and climb it safely, how to load a truck, how to carry vine cutters and even how to stand on mats when working on the conveyor lines. I think it covered everything except how to sit down in the bathroom! As ridiculous as it sounds, that is what was required to satisfy the demands of the insurance companies and Cal OSHA.


To think that a sanitation plant could be this deficient in the areas of safety regarding pathogenic bacterial or other toxicity exposure and electrical hazards doesn’t pass the smell test. The only way they could get away with this is if they just outright lied. Anyone who would consider a human being of less worth or take advantage of their ignorance by willfully putting them in potential harms way without providing the safety features that are provided to everyone is just plain criminally negligent.


If they have done what they are accused of doing, may they answer to the fullest extent of the law and then some.


MaryMalone

QUOTE FROM ABOVE: “To hear that the safety manuals aren’t written in the language of non English speaking Employees is mind boggling. I should think that the Workman’s Comp Insurance Carrier would have tagged that issue as a problem when they conducted safety inspections and they would have required the appropriate corrections at that time. I sort of have a hard time believing that these violations could possibly be taking place. ”




Well, that is assuming they are carrying Workers Comp coverage.


It’s also assuming that the WC auditor, if they have coverage, isn’t also on the take from Wallace.


kitten

ATTENTION ALL:

District board meeting is scheduled for Wed., 03/02/2011 at 6 PM in the OCSD meeting room. 1655 Front St., Oceano, CA


attend the board meeting and demand that Wallace be removed as Administrator and Wallace Group be banned from performing ANY services to the district.. Make your voices heard! The board meetings are they only place that really counts!

See you there


Crusader

John Wallace need to go to prison already…


rallyraid

Having worked in the oil patch which is as messy, however not as smelly perhaps, this type of environment is no place for untrained workers. Confined spaces, sewer gas or 02 deficiency hazards,explosion hazards, chemical hazards, electrical hazards, biological hazards to name some common ones. Id suspect the workers are offered immunization from the likes of TB, Hep and Tetanus as well. OSHA will look for their IIPP to be in place with records indicating all the personnel are competent in the areas their utilized. Hopefully its in order in a better manner then their O&M manuals evidently weren’t which resulted in a violation. Why are they hiring temporary workers anyhow when they just laid off the lab tech because their underfunded? Wouldn’t a typical government contract or union contract require a “laid off” worker to be reinstated if the need to restaff arose?

Hooroo


undertow

Wow, check this out. Big buisness saving a buck?


PDF] AP Investigation: Mexican worker deaths rise sharply even as overall US job safety improves

[PDF] from justicejournalism.orgJ Pritchard – Associated Press, March, 2004 – justicejournalism.org

… NORTHEAST: In the region with the fewest Mexicans, death rates still far exceeded American

worker … about 1 in 3,100 Mexican construction laborers died on the job, a rate one-quarter … OSHA

Director John Henshaw points to Spanish-language materials the agency has put on ..


AP Investigation: Mexican worker deaths rise sharply even as overall US job safety improves


OnTheOtherHand

I don’t know the specifics or the situations to which you refer, but there are a significant number of Hispanic immigrants that are illiterate in Spanish. A smart employer would be wise not to put such workers in jobs with hazards too complex to verbally communicate in a simple manner.


Yes, it might mean increased pay to get better qualified workers, but it doesn’t take many large workman’s comp claims — or lawsuits — to raise costs even higher.


kellygirl

I do not understand the regulatory chain-of-command, but Oceano is in 4th district, so this has to involve Paul Texeira at some point. Perhaps we should all start emailing him and seeing if he’d look into it or request state watchdogs get more involved.


This sounds like another lawsuit in the making. How many do we have until heads roll.


Bob

We can continue to waste the taxpayers money or we can do the right thing and replace Wallace and the Wallace Group.


The time for change is long over due.


brook

Indeed. It’s time that the people of this county started demanding responsive and responsible leadership in business as well as government. The Wallace Group, with fingers in so many SLO pies, should be shown the door.


undertow

If Im not mistaken the Wallace Group and one of the Seitz brothers was or still are involved in the Los Osos sewer project for years. A recent article in New Times said ground breaking will begin by the end of 2011. Necessary or not ,this will get ugly before its over and I feel sorry for the folks who get screwed by this overpriced nightmare.


MaryMalone

Michael Seitz’ brother, Jon, also practices law, and out of the same office as does Michael.


Jon Seitz is legal counsel for the Los Osos CSD and the Nipomo CSD.


MaryMalone

Unless the there-member governing board is also replaced, it is unlikely there will be any change, no matter who is administering the facility..