Feb. 4, 2015
Lead paint exposure endangers workers on Blue Island bridge project
Era Valdivia Contractors fails to protect employees; faces $287,440 in fines
BLUE ISLAND, Ill. – Without proper protections, employees who work with lead can bring this toxic metal home on their clothes, shoes, skin, hair and hands with the potential to poison children and other family members. "Take-home lead" as it's called is particularly dangerous for pregnant women and preschoolers.
Employees of Chicago-based Era Valdivia Contractors Inc. and their families faced this risk, after workers were exposed to dangerous lead hazards while sandblasting the steel structure of the Francisco Avenue Bridge in Blue Island on July 25, 2014.
The U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration initiated an inspection of the company under the National Emphasis Program for Lead after observing employees working without personal protective equipment. Four willful, one serious and two repeated safety violations, carrying proposed penalties of $287,440, were cited. The company has been cited 13 previous times for violating the lead construction standards.
"OSHA's investigation found that Era Valdivia Contractors had performed tests that indicated dangerous lead exposure in the early stages of the project. The company made a conscious decision not to protect its workers," said Kathy Webb, OSHA's area director in Calumet City. "Era Valdivia Contractors failed to follow the law and its company policy, putting everyone at risk."
OSHA estimates that approximately 804,000 workers in general industry and an additional 838,000 workers in construction are potentially exposed to lead regularly. Lead exposure can cause long-term damage to the central nervous, urinary, blood and reproductive systems.
Era Valdivia Contractors was issued four willful violations for failing to provide personal protective clothing, clean changing areas and hygiene facilities, such as showers and hand-washing facilities, to prevent lead from traveling home. A willful violation is one committed with intentional, knowing or voluntary disregard for the law's requirement, or with plain indifference to employee safety and health.
The company also failed to provide written notice to an employee who was overexposed to lead, resulting in the issuance of one serious violation. 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 violations were cited for failing to provide an on-site lead compliance program and to post lead warning signs in work areas. The company was cited for similar violations in 2011.
To view the current citations see: http://www.osha.gov/ooc/citations/ERAValdiviaContractors_987421.pdf*
Era Valdivia Contractors has 15 business days from receipt of its citations and penalties to comply, request an informal 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 Calumet City office at 708-891-3800.
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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Release Number: 15-114-CHI
U.S. Department of Labor news materials are accessible at http://www.dol.gov. The department's Reasonable Accommodation Resource Center converts departmental information and documents into alternative formats, which include Braille and large print. For alternative format requests, please contact the department at (202) 693-7828 (voice) or (800) 877-8339 (federal relay).
* Accessibility Assistance Contact OSHA's Office of Communications at 202-693-1999 for assistance accessing PDF materials.