OSHA cited Herbert Manufacturing Co. and Herbert Foundry and Machine located in Laconia, N.H., for failing to protect workers from hazards posed by overexposure to toxic lead and silica.
The agency is proposing penalties totaling $94,250 for the alleged willful, serious and other than serious violations.
According to David May, OSHA area director for New Hampshire, the alleged violations were discovered during safety and health inspections conducted between November 1999 and March 2000 at the facilities.
Aside from the overexposure dangers, other hazards identified in the inspection included violations of OSHA standards governing locking out of machinery power sources, noise exposure, work in toxic or oxygen-deficient confined spaces, and the supply and use of personal protective equipment.
"The inspection found employees in the grinding room and foundry exposed to airborne concentrations of lead in excess of permitted limits and working without protective equipment, protective clothing, separate shower and lunch room facilities or adequate training and required information on lead hazards," said May.
"In addition, engineering and work practice controls to reduce the lead level had not been implemented, a respiratory protection program had not been developed for these workers, respirators were not used, the ventilation system had not been measured for effectiveness in keeping down lead levels and additional exposure monitoring had not been conducted when conditions suggested a change in lead levels."
May explained that lead is a systematic poison which can enter the body through inhalation or ingestion and be absorbed into the lungs, upper respiratory system, stomach and blood system.
The effects of overexposure to lead can range from fatigue, sleep disturbance and digestive upset to permanent damage to kidney, nervous, reproductive and blood systems.
"To counter these dangers, employers are required to monitor lead exposure and to take a range of actions if overexposures are suspected or found, including implementing engineering and work practice controls to reduce the exposure levels and minimize the danger to workers," said May. "Yet, effective steps were not taken here, despite the fact that the company''s own monitoring revealed elevated lead levels in some workers'' blood."
May urged Granite State employers and employees with questions regarding workplace safety and health standards to contact the OSHA area office in Concord at (603) 225-1629. OSHA''s toll-free, nationwide hotline, (800) 321-OSHA, may be used to report workplace accidents or fatalities or situations posing imminent danger to workers.
Herbert Manufacturing Co. and Herbert Foundry and Machine have 15 working days to contest the citations.
by Virginia Sutcliffe