OSHA Returns To Re-Inspect Connecticut Humane Society

January 19, 2010

Copyright © 2010, CtWatchdog.com

After apparently being hoodwinked last year by managers of the Connecticut Humane Society, two OSHA inspectors returned today to conduct a full investigation of conditions in the Newington-based facility.

Robert Kowalski, acting Hartford-area director, confirmed the inspection, saying he sent one inspector and one supervisor to one of the oldest and best-known Connecticut charities.

He said that another complaint had been filed by a worker, but declined to say what connection, if any, there was to the Sept. 11, 2009, inspection when CHS President and Chairman Richard Johnston allegedly led an effort to hide dangerous chemicals while the inspectors were delayed by managers as they headed into the building.

A leading member of a coalition of workers, former workers and volunteers at CHS told me that the inspectors interviewed many of the employees today about what took place on Sept. 11. She said that at least some workers told the inspectors about how Johnston and managers hid chemicals, and placed new gloves and masks in areas where the protective devices had not normally been provided.

Johnston apparently was unable to interfere with today’s inspection as he was meeting at the time with his board of directors and presumably facing questions about my columns that disclosed what happened in last year’s inspection as well as complaints of bullying of staff by Johnston and some of his managers. You can read the previous columns by clicking on the headlines under this blog.

The Coalition for Change, a group claiming to include more than 50 “concerned animal welfare advocates,” has scheduled a press conference in East Hartford for tomorrow (Wednesday), where it will publicly call for Johnston’s removal. Interestingly enough, one of the leaders in Wednesday’s press conference is Cheryl Rice, a public relations and marketing consultant who used to do PR for the Humane Society until she was fired five years ago.

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  5. Mer on January 20, 2010 at 12:29 pm

    I’m really surprised OSHA was able to get anyone to talk to them. I heard the employees were afraid to talk to them because of the Humane Society’s Anti-Whistle Blower Policy outlined in the employee handbook.

    • InTheKnow on January 20, 2010 at 3:15 pm

      Again, I’ll mention that these workers were told, unless it’s work related, they’re not even allowed to speak to each other. Hopefully OSHA will take a better look.. If one complains it’s just a complaint.. two or three.. maybe the guy had a bad day.. But when you find people who just volunteer,, workers from years past and current all making the same statements willing to come forward, take a chance of losing their jobs.. You best get the magnifying glass out and take a real good look.
      Johnston is a very influential man.. People.. don’t back down now as well as Blumenthal. Channel 12 news did maybe 10 seconds spot on this subject. Could they spare it?
      Thanks again to Mr Gombossy for getting and keeping this out there in the open..

      • Mer on January 20, 2010 at 3:34 pm

        Johnston and his influence – this is a phenomenon I do not understand. The Board has the perfect opportunity to come out looking like heroes here, but instead they back this guy up without one single staff interview? Even after OSHA Part II?

        They grilled him – to what end? Did they think he was going to suddenly admit to anything? Yes, many of them have a cushy association with CHS, but if the animals and employees weren’t suffering no one would question that.

        They could remove Johnston and the managers and call themselves saints and people would buy it. Backing up Johnston is a gamble that could and should cost them all their positions. If the Board was smart they would rethink their position immediately.

        • InTheKnow on January 20, 2010 at 6:53 pm

          Those board members are equally at fault. Would any of you sit on a board without doing your own homework? Why hasn’t any of the “Board” gone to any of these shelters and spoken to anyone or just looked around.. just smell the place.. see the looks on the employee faces? And a threat in the workplace be sexual or threatening to sue for liable is illegal. To threaten anyone with anything is illegal, even in a non-profit organization. Personally, I dont see where he can find the time to be a Chairperson.. he has two other apparently thriving businesses of his own to tend to.

          • Concerned Citizen on January 20, 2010 at 7:46 pm

            Some of the BOD get to direct CHS business their way. Wouldn’t you take advantage of that if you could? Then who knows on the backend if they tell the IRS that they are “donating” their time…how conveniet…

        • Alpha Dog on January 20, 2010 at 8:34 pm

          I’m pretty sure his meeting started with him saying “WE all have alot to lose”!

          • InTheKnow on January 20, 2010 at 8:42 pm

            And they do.. but they lost what is most important in ANY type of relationship. Respect!!! I so hope they find a way to get into their financials.

    • Lindsay on January 20, 2010 at 6:40 pm

      If only for reasons of speaking out, it makes me wish I worked there during these inspections. In my year of employment I wasn’t much liked by management because I did speak out against what I saw to be grossly unfair. If not for leaving to pursue a job that allowed me to use more of my animal behavior skills I too would surely have been fired for speaking the truth. I honestly lost track of the number of times I was cornered in a room by not just one, but several managers to reprimand my “behavior”. Behavior which often involved being friendly with coworkers in an effort to make the work environment more bearable, assisting them with certain issues where my expertise was helpful. I’ve honered the wishes of current and past emploees by not speaking up for over 3 years now, not out of my own fear, but theirs. Guess what? Cat’s out of the bag 🙂

    • InTheKnow on January 21, 2010 at 4:10 pm

      There you go.. from the beginning.. Employee handbook on “whistel blowing”. Tell me what reputable organization, non profit or not, would NEED to have that in their policy? How about employees being written up for taking their EARNED vacation when they want to? Weeks carried over and when they put in for the time off they’re told .. NO. I honestly dont believe anyone will be fired from CHS now.. To much publicity. Oh and before I forget.. no one can make you sign a warning.. and if you are pressured into it, sign it but with the following.. Because I’m being forced to… have the manager sign and then make a copy to which you keep.. not the management.. they can keep the original. You have the right to see your employee file too. I suggest you all do that.

  6. anony mouse on January 20, 2010 at 8:20 pm

    The OSHA inspectors, for the few minutes that they weren’t being followed around by management (who steered employees away!), didn’t seem to like what they saw. I heard comments like “these gloves don’t even look used” when presented with the “irrefutable” evidence of safety that is having a pair of gloves hanging on a faucet. Maybe the AG is slow in investigating this, but OSHA has an opinion all their own.

    • InTheKnow on January 20, 2010 at 8:48 pm

      I seriously hope OSHA saw the “steering away”. And I hope that somewhere out there be it OSHA, The AG’s office or the Union can help these people.. Even the employed at the CHS have given their FREE time to the shelters.. without pay and Johnston pulls 130 grand a year for harassment and very poor management. Keep up the great work and never give up your faith that someone WILL help the current AND future employees

  7. Remy on January 20, 2010 at 11:10 pm

    Does anyone know whether or not MSDS sheets were available for the employees? I believe per OSHA standards cleaning chemicals or any type of chemical for that matter requires MSDS sheets. Also from what I have been told, there have been numerous bottles of chemicals not properly labeled. If that ’s the case than I would hope that the OSHA inspectors analyzed and checked to make sure that whatever chemical that was bottled had the proper label.

    • Alpha Dog on January 20, 2010 at 11:55 pm

      They have a book with the MSDS sheets, I myself do not know where it is kept, I was never told about its whereabouts, I don’t think any of the staff could say where it is kept. I do know that after the first OSHA inspection a staff member was asked to look through and update the information as it had not been updated in several years.

      • Lindsay on January 21, 2010 at 5:18 pm

        It’s in the euthaniasia room (I’m sorry “ward 4”)by the dusty first aid kit and all it’s expired contents…definitely hasn’t been updated in 10 years easily. Actually last time I saw it before I left it was falling off the wall

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