Dec. 11, 2006
Contact: Ted Fitzgerald
Phone: (617) 565-2074
BUFFALO, N.Y. -- An Orchard Park, N.Y., masonry contractor's alleged failure to adequately protect employees against hazards at a Medaille College jobsite in Buffalo, has resulted in $44,700 in proposed fines from the U.S. Labor Department's Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). Pepe Construction Inc. was cited for a total of seven alleged willful and serious violations of health and safety standards following an OSHA inspection begun July 7, 2006, in response to a complaint.
Company employees were grinding out existing mortar between bricks, acid washing brick walls and repointing brick on a building at 18 Agassiz Circle. They were exposed to airborne crystalline silica generated by the grinding. Overexposure to crystalline silica can result in silicosis, a disabling, nonreversible and sometimes fatal lung disease.
OSHA found that the company had failed to train employees on hazards associated with crystalline silica exposure as well as hazards associated with acid-containing chemicals used to wash the brick. OSHA's hazard communication standard requires that exposed employees receive training about hazardous chemicals and substances to which they are exposed.
"Hazard communication training is essential when employees work with substances or chemicals such as silica and acid," said Art Dube, OSHA's area director in Buffalo. "If employees aren't trained to recognize exposure hazards, then they won't know what symptoms to look for and what safeguards can protect them. Training and knowledge are critical tools that can prevent serious illness or injury."
OSHA also found that employees were exposed to excess levels of silica and were not provided medical evaluations, training and respirator fit-testing, while employees who performed acid washing were not provided eye and face protection. In addition, the company lacked a written hazard communication program.
As a result, OSHA issued the company one willful citation, with a proposed $33,000 fine, for the lack of hazard communication training and six serious citations, carrying $11,700 in proposed fines, for the remaining items. 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 citation is issued when death or serious physical harm are likely to result from a hazard about which the employer knew or should have known.
The company has elected to contest its citations before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission. The investigation was conducted by OSHA's area office in Buffalo, telephone (716) 551-3053.
Under the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970, employers are responsible for providing a safe and healthful workplace for their employees. OSHA's role is to assure the safety and health of America's working men and women by setting and enforcing standards; providing training, outreach, and education; establishing partnerships; and encouraging continual process improvement in workplace safety and health. For more information, visit www.osha.gov.
U.S. Labor Department) releases are accessible on the Internet at www.dol.gov. The information in this news release will be made available in alternate format upon request (large print, Braille, audio tape or disc) from the COAST office. Please specify which news release when placing your request. Call (202) 693-7765 or TTY (202) 693-7755. The U.S. Department of Labor is committed to providing America's employers and employees with easy access to understandable information on how to comply with its laws and regulations. For more information, please visit www.dol.gov/compliance.