Federal workplace safety regulators have proposed $460,000 in new fines for a southwestern Pennsylvania painting company that was cited two years ago over allegations that its workers are exposed to high levels of lead and other hazards on PennDOT bridge projects.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration announced Wednesday it has cited Panthera Painting Inc. for 38 violations – including 14 willful and 11 repeat offenses – for exposing workers to dangerous levels of lead and not doing enough to monitor their health in relation to the poisonous metal.
The citations stem from bridge painting jobs in Harrisburg, Slatington and Slatedale. Panthera, which is based in Canonsburg, near Pittsburgh, is a subcontractor for PennDOT on bridge maintenance.
An employee who answered the company’s phone said nobody was available to comment on the citations.
OSHA recommended $130,000 in fines in March 2011 for similar violations, and entered into a settlement to pay roughly half that, according to OSHA spokeswoman Leni Fortson. Panthera has yet to pay the entire amount from the earlier case, she said.
Panthera has 15 day to appeal the new citations, which OSHA deemed especially serious in light of the 2011 enforcement action.
“The employer’s refusal to correct the hazards, along with its history of failing to correct hazards, demonstrates a clear resistance to worker safety and health and leaves workers vulnerable to potential illnesses and injuries from overexposure to lead and other hazards,” said MaryAnn Garrahan, OSHA regional administrator in Philadelphia. “Employers have a legal responsibility to provide workers with safe and healthful workplaces. Anything less is unacceptable.”
The willful violations carry proposed fines totaling $365,750 for failing to properly protect workers from lead exposure and falls.
The repeat violations, carrying $63,294 in proposed fines, include a lack of warning signs in lead exposure areas, failing to ensure workers showered after shifts and failure to provide medical evaluations, including blood tests every two months for workers exposed to lead. The other 13 lesser violations account for the rest of the proposed fine.
When the company was cited in 2011, the company’s owner, Andrew Manganas, told The Associated Press, “I don’t believe we did anything willful” to harm employees.
Manganas said the company uses high-quality equipment and strives to keep its employees trained on how to deal with lead exposure.
“Nothing’s perfect,” he said then. “We do the best we can.”
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