April 20, 2016
OSHA finds tank manufacturing facility failed to fix discrepancies,
continues to expose workers to respiratory cancer risk, other hazards
Global biopharma supplier, Abec Inc. ignored violations found in July 2015
SPRINGFIELD, Mo. - Just six months after citing a global equipment provider to the biopharma industry for exposing workers to hazardous levels of hexavalent chromium and potentially deafening noise as they welded and grinded stainless steel and other alloy steels, federal investigators found the company has failed to take steps to protect its workers at its Springfield facility.
On April 12, the U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration cited Abec Inc. for two repeated and four serious safety violations after its January 2016 follow-up inspection. OSHA cited the Pennsylvania-based engineering and equipment manufacturer for the same hazards in July 2015. At unsafe levels, hexavalent chromium is known to cause lung cancer and respiratory, eye and skin damage.
"Abec's failure to address serious workplace hazards endangers the safety and well-being of its workers. There is no excuse for finding identical hazards in a follow-up inspection," said Barbara Theroit, OSHA's area director in Kansas City. "The company must monitor a worker's exposure to chromium which often occurs during ¿hot work' such as welding on stainless steel and other alloys. Abec has to fix its safety and health program immediately."
OSHA's follow-up inspection found the company failed to:
- Train employees to understand the hazards of chromium (VI) compounds.
- Monitor employees' exposure levels to chromium quarterly as required.
- Provide employees with testing including baseline audiograms to monitor potential hearing loss.
- Comply with respiratory protection standards, including failing to have workers medically evaluated for respiratory wear.
- Prevent chromium (VI) dust from accumulating on surface areas.
Inspectors found the facility, which makes food-grade stainless steel tanks for biopharmaceutical manufacturers, failed to reduce and monitor exposure levels among workers, and failed to conduct additional monitoring after expanding the production process in 2006, 2008 and 2014. Since 2013, the company has expanded its workforce from 68 to 280 but failed to expand its training and monitoring programs for employee safety and health.
In addition to "hot work," dyes, paints, inks and plastics can contain chromium (VI) compounds. Paints, primers and other surface coatings also use the compounds as an anti-corrosive agent.
Proposed penalties total $95,000. View citations here*.
Based in Bethlehem, Abec provides engineering, equipment and other services to the biopharmaceutical manufacturing industry. In addition to its Missouri and Pennsylvania facilities, the company also operates in Ireland and China. 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 agency's Kansas City office at 816-502-0297.
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.
Release Number: 16-712-KAN
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.