Lead Exposure Leads to OSHA Citations

Dec. 28, 2001
Exposing workers to unsafe levels of lead may cost a Black River Falls, Wis., construction company $250,000 in proposed OSHA penalties.

Exposing workers to unsafe levels of lead may cost a Black River Falls, Wis., company $250,000 in proposed penalties, says the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).

The agency alleges that Lunda Construction Co. committed safety and health violations by over-exposing workers to lead and failing to implement proper engineering and administrative controls to protect employees.

"These citations deliver an important message," said Secretary of Labor Elaine L. Chao. "Employers have a responsibility to follow standards and protect workers from excessive exposure to harmful substances such as lead."

OSHA began a safety and health inspection at the 6th Street Viaduct Project in Milwaukee on June 11, according to George Yoksas, area director for the Milwaukee OSHA office.

Alleged willful violations involved the company's failure to properly implement and manage a lead program while demolishing a bridge that was known to have lead coatings. OSHA cited the company for exposing workers above the permissible limit without proper engineering controls and a proper respiratory program. Other willful violations were for failing to ensure employees properly used protective coveralls, permitting employees to wear street clothes under their coveralls, and permitting employees to wear the same personal footwear in a hazardous lead environment and their homes.

Alleged serious violations committed by the employer included failing to adequately monitor the air to determine the level of exposure while employees cut lead coatings; failing to implement protective measures for employees until air monitoring determined the hazards at the site; and using objective and historical data that was inadequate and did not reflect the conditions at the worksite.

Other alleged serious violations involved the company's failure to inform workers in writing of the air monitoring results; failure to update the lead compliance plan in the past six months; and failure to conduct blood lead tests within specified time frames.

Employees were allowed to eat in contaminated areas in their work clothes, shower facilities were not provided, and respirator fit test records were incomplete. One employee was observed working under a suspended load of bridge steel being moved by a crane.

OSHA defines a serious violation as a hazardous condition in which there is a substantial probability that death or serious physical harm and the employer knew or should have known of the hazard. A willful violation is one in which the employer knowingly failed to comply with a legal requirement or acted with plain indifference to employee safety.

Lunda Construction Co. has 15 working days from receipt of the citations to contest the citations and proposed penalties before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission or request an informal hearing with the OSHA area director.

edited by Sandy Smith ([email protected])

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