Employees of The Preservation Society of Newport County exposed to lead and
fall hazards at Bellevue Avenue mansion in Newport, Rhode Island
US Department of Labor's OSHA cites employer for 10 serious violations
PROVIDENCE, R.I. – Employees of The Preservation Society of Newport County were exposed to lead* and potentially fatal falls while scraping and abrasively removing lead-based paint from an outbuilding at the Newport mansion known as Chateau-sur-Mer, reports the U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration.
OSHA's Providence Area Office opened inspections on May 8 when two OSHA inspectors observed employees climbing an extension ladder* that was set up at an incorrect and unsafe angle at 478 Bellevue Ave.
"The hazards were both immediate and long-term," said Patrick Griffin, OSHA's area director for Rhode Island. "A fall from an improperly used ladder could have disabled or killed workers within seconds. Exposure to lead-based paint without proper safeguards could, over time, contribute to chronic health conditions. The society's care and maintenance of historic structures should not come at a cost to the health and well-being of its workers. It must take effective action to ensure that these hazards don't occur again."
OSHA found that The Preservation Society of Newport County did not determine the level of lead exposure for each employee and did not provide interim safeguards, including appropriate respiratory protection; personal protective clothing and equipment; areas to change out of lead-contaminated clothing; hand-washing facilities; biological monitoring; and hazard communication training. In addition, a vacuum cleaner lacked a high-efficiency particulate air filter used to collect lead-contaminated debris. Finally, the employer did not train workers in the proper procedures of working with ladders.
As a result, OSHA has cited The Preservation Society of Newport County for 10 serious violations and proposed $51,840 in fines. A serious violation occurs when there is substantial probability that death or serious physical harm could result from a hazard about which the employer knew or should have known.
The Preservation Society of Newport County, which maintains and holds in public trust the Newport Mansions, has 15 business days from receipt of its citations and proposed penalties to comply, meet with OSHA's area director, or contest the findings before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.
To ask questions, obtain compliance assistance, file a complaint or report workplace hospitalizations, fatalities or situations posing imminent danger to workers, the public should call OSHA's toll-free hotline at 800-321-OSHA (6742) or the agency's Providence Area Office at 401-528-4669.
Under the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970, employers are responsible for providing safe and healthful workplaces for their employees. OSHA's role is to ensure these conditions for America's working men and women by setting and enforcing standards, and providing training, education and assistance. For more information, visit http://www.osha.gov/.
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