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Warehouse companies fined for safety violations in Chino

The California Division of Occupational Safety and Health issues $256,445 in citations to warehouse operators National Distribution Centers and Tri State Staffing.

January 19, 2012|By Marc Lifsher, Los Angeles Times

State regulators have fined two warehouse operating companies more than a quarter of a million dollars for allowing unsafe working conditions at four San Bernardino County distribution centers.

The California Division of Occupational Safety and Health said Wednesday that it issued $256,445 in citations for more than 60 violations found during a recent inspection of warehouses in Chino.

Cited were warehouse owner National Distribution Centers and its temporary staffing contractor, Tri State Staffing. The infractions included unstable storage stacking, unguarded machinery and lack of fall protection for order pickers working in high areas.

The state agency, known as Cal/OSHA, said National Distribution Centers and Tri State had a "dual-employer relationship" at three of the operations. The situation arises when one employer hires workers and provides them to another employer.

In such a relationship, both employers are potentially liable for violations of state health and safety laws, regulators said. In this case, Tri State provided employees for the National Distribution Centers facilities.

"California law requires all employers to identify and mitigate safety risks in the workplace," said Christine Baker, director of the state Department of Industrial Relations, Cal/OSHA's parent agency. "In the warehouse industry, low-wage workers are particularly vulnerable to unsafe working conditions where work is often hidden from public view."

The inspections came in response to complaints from Warehouse Workers United, a group that advocates for better working conditions at Inland Empire logistics centers. Inspectors also were investigating an employee's heat-related injury in August, Cal/OSHA said.

A spokesman at Tri State Staffing's New York headquarters did not respond to a request for comment.

marc.lifsher@latimes.com

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