A home and personal care fabric products manufacturer with facilities in Brentwood, Hauppauge and Commack must correct hazardous conditions and institute new safety protocols after one worker sustained broken bones and another lost a finger in separate incidents last year, the Department of Labor announced.
U.S. Nonwovens will pay $200,000 in penalties — the largest such settlement on Long Island in at least five years — under an agreement with DOL reached in May and announced July 10. An investigation by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration found “repeat and serious” violations at company facilities last year.
OSHA opened an inspection after Suffolk police told the agency a male employee broke bones on his right hand when he caught it in a fabric-softener sheet cutting-machine at the company's Nicon Court facility in Hauppauge on Jan. 28, 2019, according to records and an agency spokesman, Edmund Fitzgerald. A second employee suffered a partial finger amputation while operating an auto-tubber, a machine used to fill product into containers, at the company's Emjay Boulevard facility in Brentwood on Jan. 31, 2019. OSHA learned of the incident during its inspection; the company did not report either incident, Fitzgerald said in an email.
Failure to report a work-related incident resulting in hospitalization or amputation is an OSHA violation. OSHA investigators also found the company failed to install machine guards, stored materials insecurely and did not properly train forklift operators. They also cited the company for obstructed exit routes and an inoperable exit door.
The company did not respond to a request for comment Wednesday.
U.S. Nonwovens agreed to hire a safety director, do safety inspections and training and establish a toll-free number for employees to report safety concerns anonymously, according to the DOL news release. The settlement agreement between DOL and the company covers three company locations in Brentwood and one each in Commack and Hauppauge.
U.S. Nonwovens makes products for consumer goods giants such as Procter & Gamble, Johnson & Johnson and Unilever and for Walmart and other retailing chains. These include baby wipes, acne and hemorrhoid treatments, cosmetics, detergents, sponges and adult incontinence remedies.
The company was founded by members of the Mehdizadeh family. In August 2019, Newsday reported the family sold a majority stake in the company to private equity firm Wind Point Partners. That year the nonunion shop had about 1,000 employees in Suffolk County who earned, on average, $33,130 annually. The county's Industrial Development Agency in 2013 provided nearly $2 million in tax breaks over 12 to 15 years to keep the business from leaving.
In the release, OSHA Long Island area director Kevin Sullivan said the settlement “commits the company to long-term safety improvements for workers at all of its New York facilities.” The company “responded to OSHA's inspection and citations by agreeing to implement corrective measures to better protect the safety and health of all employees," he said.