US Labor Department's OSHA cites South Carolina lead removal
company for failing to protect employees from lead exposure
Welch Group Environmental fined $480,000
FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. – The U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration has cited Welch Group Environmental LLP of Belton, S.C., for 17 health violations. Welch Group Environmental was contracted by Delray Shooting Center in Delray Beach to clean the shooting range and reclaim the lead, and OSHA's inspection found that Welch Group Environmental knowingly neglected to protect workers from overexposure to lead. Proposed fines total $480,000.
"The management of Welch Group Environmental acknowledged awareness of OSHA's lead standards and the dangers associated with lead exposure but continued to allow hazards to exist, exposing employees to serious health risks," said Darlene Fossum, OSHA's area director in Fort Lauderdale.
The inspection, conducted by OSHA's Fort Lauderdale Area Office, was initiated in July as part of the agency's national and regional emphasis programs for lead. Eleven willful violations with $462,000 in penalties involve failing to provide employees with a respirator fit test and respirator training, use engineering controls to reduce employee exposure to lead, provide eye or head protection, provide shower facilities and changing rooms, provide monitoring for lead levels in employees' blood, ensure that employees' blood level results were reduced before sending them to work in lead-contaminated areas, provide medical removal protection benefits to employees and train workers on lead exposure. Additionally, the employer allowed workers to shovel and dry sweep lead-contaminated areas, and allowed them to be exposed to lead above the permissible exposure limit. A willful violation is one committed with intentional knowing or voluntary disregard for the law's requirements, or with plain indifference to worker safety and health.
Four serious violations with $16,800 in penalties involve failing to ensure that employees required to wear tight-fitted respirators did not have facial hair that could interfere with the seal between the respirator and face, provide appropriate respirators when employees were exposed to lead 10 times above the maximum concentration; provide workers with their blood level results and information on medical removal protection benefits in writing, and provide employees with a blood sample analysis that included hemoglobin and hematocrit, zinc protoporphyrin, blood urea nitrogen and serum creatinine determinations. 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.
Two other-than-serious violations with $1,200 in penalties involve failing to label containers of contaminated protective clothing, and develop and implement a written hazard communication program. An other-than-serious violation is one that has a direct relationship to job safety and health, but probably would not cause death or serious physical harm.
OSHA has placed Welch Group Environmental in its Severe Violator Enforcement Program, which mandates targeted follow-up inspections to ensure compliance with the law. Initiated in June 2010, the program focuses on recalcitrant employers that endanger workers by committing willful, repeat or failure-to-abate violations. For more information on SVEP, visit http://s.dol.gov/J3.
The company, which also operates locations in Fair Play and Anderson, S.C., employs about 14 workers who provide range cleaning and lead recovery services for approximately 101 indoor and outdoor shooting ranges in 16 states.
The citations can be viewed at http://www.osha.gov/ooc/citations/WelchEvironmentalGp-315354563-0106-12.pdf*.
Welch Group Environmental has 15 business days from receipt of the citations and proposed penalties to comply, request a conference 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 Ft. Lauderdale office at 954-424-0242.
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.
U.S. Department of Labor news materials are accessible at http://www.dol.gov. The information above is available in large print, Braille, audio tape or disc from the COAST office upon request by calling 202-693-7828 or TTY 202-693-7755.
* Accessibility Assistance Contact OSHA's Office of Communications at 202-693-1999 for assistance accessing PDF materials.