"To ensure that injury and illness rates continue to decline, we must make sure that employers protect employees from workplace hazards," said U.S. Secretary of Labor Elaine L. Chao, calling the penalty "significant."
The fine and OSHA citations follow an inspection initiated in September 2003 at the facility, which receives electric arc furnace dust from heavy industry plants and stores, then treats and disposes of the contaminated dust. The inspection revealed that workers were subjected to exposures in excess of permissible amounts and that the company failed to implement engineering and work practice controls to prevent over-exposures.
Envirosafe employs about 70 workers at the facility and has had three previous OSHA inspections. One, conducted in 1978, resulted in violations. However, the company had been notified by independent consultants that workers were being exposed in excess of permissible standards and had been advised as to how the hazard could be corrected.
The company has 15 working days from receipt of the citations to appeal before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.
In fiscal year 2003, OSHA conducted almost 40,000 inspections, an increase of more than 2000 inspections over 2002 levels; more than half focused on high-hazard industries.