A lead abatement contractor’s reported failure to protect employees removing lead paint from a steel bridge spanning the Penobscot River between Lincoln and Chester, Maine, has resulted in $80,500 in fines from the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). Monoko Inc., Tarpon Springs, Fla., was cited for a total of 15 alleged willful and serious violations of workplace health standards following an OSHA inspection begun Aug. 25, 2004.
The willful citations, which account for $55,000 of the total fines, concern the employer’s failure to require lead-exposed employees to shower at the end of each shift, a situation exacerbated by the lack of working showers and the lack of water supply to the showers. Also cited as willful was the company’s use of unapproved industrial hoses and fittings and spliced hoses for airline respirators.
The serious citations reportedly address employees’ exposure to excess airborne concentrations of lead; no lead exposure monitoring; dirty respirators, stored in lead contaminated areas and not inspected daily; lead contaminated work surfaces, lockers, street clothes, eyewash and hand washing facilities; refusal to supply a required medical exam and blood lead analysis to an employee who had symptoms of lead poisoning; employees allowed to eat while wearing lead contaminated clothing; a vacuum lacking a HEPA filter; and failure to provide the workers, many of whom were non-English speaking, with training on lead hazards and safe work practices in a language they understood. A total of $25,500 in fines is proposed for these items.
Lead is a poison that can damage the central nervous system, kidney, cardiovascular, blood and reproductive systems if absorbed into the body in high enough doses. Absorption is often through inhalation.
OSHA defines a willful violation as one committed with an intentional disregard of, or plain indifference to, the requirements of the Occupational Safety and Health Act and regulations. A serious violation is a condition where there is a substantial possibility that death or serious physical harm can result to an employee.
The company has 15 business days from receipt of its citations to request and participate in an informal conference with the OSHA area director or to contest them before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.
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