Cal/OSHA, the authoritative agency overseeing occupational safety and health regulations, has issued six citations against Flying Food Group (FFG) for breaches of worker health and safety protections.
FFG employs more than 350 workers at LAX who prepare and transport in-flight meals to the airplanes of more than a dozen major airlines.
Airlines supported by FFG include Singapore Airlines, Air France and Lufthansa–and, beginning in April, the luxury Taiwanese airline Starlux.
The Allegations and Serious Violation
One of the citations marked as a “Serious Violation” stems from incidents that occurred on February 2, 2023, and subsequent dates. Cal/OSHA contends that FFG failed to ensure that all required exits were unobstructed in case of an emergency.
This issue raises a red flag as it directly compromises the safety of workers in situations where a swift exit is necessary. To exacerbate the gravity of this violation, fines were assessed for each of these transgressions, underscoring the significance of adhering to safety regulations.
The citations were a direct response to a complaint lodged by four FFG workers. They alleged that on February 2, 2023, management intentionally locked multiple exit doors, even using screws to seal one door shut with a metal plate.
The timing of these actions is particularly concerning, as it coincided with workers planning to stage a picket line protest outside the facility. The workers have also taken legal action by filing an unfair labor practice charge, asserting that management’s actions infringe upon federal labor law.
Breaches in Safety
Aside from the “Serious Violation,” Cal/OSHA also issued “General Violation” citations that highlight further safety breaches committed by FFG. These include instances of:
- Permitting an untrained employee to operate a forklift
- Failing to ensure that emergency eyewash and shower equipment were unobstructed and regularly activated for functional upkeep
- Neglecting monthly inspections of portable fire extinguishers
- Failing to maintain safe operating conditions for equipment in key areas such as the dishroom and receiving area
A particularly notable observation was the inability of the receiving freezer’s door to open properly from the inside. These instances collectively emphasize a pattern of lax safety oversight, which can have dire consequences in emergency situations.
Broader Legal Troubles
Regrettably, these citations are not isolated incidents for FFG, says the union. In a separate incident, the California Highway Patrol rated the company as “unsatisfactory” due to employing and authorizing seven individuals without valid licenses to drive their trucks.
Furthermore, the Bureau of Contract Administration, tasked with upholding the airport’s minimum wage law, has cited FFG and its subcontractors on four occasions for violating minimum wage regulations.
The impact of these safety violations on workers’ lives was expressed by Gary Duplessis, a 62-year-old cook at the facility and a complainant to Cal/OSHA, who expressed his concerns:
“When multiple doors were bolted shut on the day of our picket, we feared what would happen if a fire broke out. It felt like the company was treating us like animals and was trying to interfere with our union rights.”
Susan Minato, co-president of UNITE HERE Local 11, the hospitality workers’ union representing the facility’s workers, expressed her indignation, stating:
“Cal/OSHA’s citation represents only the latest example of Flying Food Group’s rampant lawbreaking.”
She urged airport leadership and city officials to take decisive action in holding FFG accountable for its actions.
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