The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) found traces of toxic metals - including lead - in several areas of Washington''s Puget Sound Naval Shipyard during a recent investigation. The agency, conducting an investigation of the shipyard following a worker complaint, found 11 serious violations. The shipyard cannot be fined, because the federal government manages it.
"I consider this to be a high number of violations," said Joy Flack, OSHA area director.
She said wipe samples taken from five buildings at the shipyard uncovered traces of cadmium and lead in lunch rooms and water fountains. The shipyard received a repeat violation as well, because wipe samples taken in August and in December also showed traces of lead in employee eating areas.
Lead exposure can lead to central nervous system disorders in adults, while cadmium can cause lung cancer and kidney damage.
"In all the other industrial sites and shipyards that I have been to that work with heavy metals, they do not allow eating, drinking or smoking in areas where those metals are present," Flack said.
OSHA set a deadline of April 8 to correct the violations.
A spokesperson for the shipyard said they are "confident we can improve on practicing and enforcing the requirements of the shipyard''s procedures and we will." She did not comment on the fact that the shipyard seems to have a continuing problem with contamination in common areas such as lunchrooms, judging by the repeat violations.
OSHA asked for blood samples from shipyard employees, and those did not show elevated levels of lead or cadmium. The long-term effects are what worry Flack, she said.
"After so much accumulation, you start to experience health effects," Flack said.
by Sandy Smith ([email protected])