In late June, two BMW employees were hospitalized with flu-like symptoms. County health officials alerted the Tampa OSHA office after test showed the workers had high blood-lead levels.
On July 1, OSHA began an inspection of BMW Construction at a Tampa battery manufacturing facility. Twelve BMW employees were working at the facility replacing and welding a screw-conveyor used to move lead oxide.
"This company has worked in lead areas before. They knew the hazards workers faced, but did nothing to protect them from lead exposure," said Les Grove, OSHA's Tampa area director.
The Lithia, Fla.-based company received two willful citations with proposed penalties totaling $55,000 for failing to train employees about the hazards associated with lead exposure and failing to provide workers with adequate respiratory protection.
OSHA also issued six serious citations with proposed penalties totaling $10,500 for failing to: conduct an initial assessment to determine expected lead exposure levels, implement a program to reduce those levels, monitor employees for blood-lead levels, and make sure that employees showered before leaving the work site.
The agency issues a willful citation when the alleged violation is committed with an intentional disregard of, or plain indifference to, the requirements of the OSHA Act and regulations. A serious citation is issued when there is a substantial probability that death or serious physical harm could result and that the employer knew or should have known of the hazard.
The company has 15 working days to contest the OSHA citations and proposed penalties before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.