May 18, 2015
Storage tank manufacturer exposes welders to toxic metal hazards
OSHA finds Imperial Industries ignores rules to prevent toxic exposure
ROTHSCHILD, Wis. – Workers welding stainless steel and other alloy steels containing chromium metal at a Wisconsin bulk storage tank manufacturer were exposed to hazardous levels of hexavalent chromium. At high levels, hexavalent chromium can cause lung cancer and respiratory, eye and skin damage.
After a complaint, U.S. Department of Labor Occupational Safety and Health Administration inspectors visited Imperial Industries in Rothschild and identified two willful and 12 serious safety violations. Proposed penalties total $161,100.
"Each year 50,000 workers die from exposures to hazardous substances like chromium during their careers. Failing to take steps to limit exposure to this dangerous substance is inexcusable," said Robert Bonack, area director of OSHA's Appleton office. "Workers pay the price when companies don't follow standards to reduce injuries and illnesses. Imperial Industries needs to take immediate steps to comply with safety and health standards."
Inspectors determined employees were exposed to hexavalent chromium at levels exceeding permissible exposure limits while welding steels containing chromium metal. Chromium is added to harden alloy steel and help it resist corrosion. Additionally, the company failed to implement engineering controls to reduce and monitor exposure levels among workers.
The November 2014 investigation also found workers endangered by amputation and struck-by hazards because machines lacked safety mechanisms. Numerous electrical safety hazards were also identified, and workers were found operating damaged powered industrial vehicles.
Imperial Industries manufactures heavy gauge metal industrial tanks that are typically mounted to commercial trucks. The company 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 Appleton Area Office at 920-734-4521.
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: 15-870-CHI
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