Workers exposed to dangerous silica dust at Omaha stone-cutting facility
Baltazar's Stone Inc. cited by US Department of Labor's OSHA
OMAHA, Neb. – The U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration fined Baltazar's Stone Inc. $40,921 for exposing workers to dangerous silica dust levels and other hazards at the Omaha stone-cutting facility. Silica exposure can cause silicosis, an irreversible lung disease, and other health hazards. OSHA began the inspection Nov. 27, 2013, after receiving a complaint. The inspection resulted in 15 violations.
"Occupational exposure to crystalline silica often occurs as part of common workplace tasks involving cutting, sawing, drilling and crushing of concrete, brick, block, rock and stone," said Bonita Winingham, OSHA's area director in Omaha. "Employers must ensure that going to work is not hazardous to worker health."
A total of 13 serious violations were cited, including allowing three stonecutters to be exposed to silica at levels nearly three times the permissible exposure limit for a work shift; failing to implement administrative and engineering controls to reduce exposure; and failing to train workers on silica hazards. Inhalation of small crystalline silica particles puts workers at risk for silicosis, lung cancer, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and kidney disease. Employers can protect workers from dangerous silica dust by providing engineering controls, respiratory protection and monitoring exposure.
OSHA recently released a proposed rule to protect workers exposed to respirable crystalline silica. OSHA estimates that the proposed rule will save nearly 700 lives and prevent 1,600 new cases of silicosis per year, once the full effect of the rule occurs. Many American families have seen firsthand the tragic result of silicosis. Watch OSHA's new "Deadly Dust" video to learn more about worker stories and how dust control methods can help limit employees' exposure to crystalline silica.
The other violations involved respiratory protection standards, such as failing to implement a written respiratory protection program; conduct medical evaluation and fit testing for respirators; and train workers on requirements for wear. The company also failed to establish and maintain an audiometric testing program for employees, monitor employee exposure to noise hazards and ensure workers properly inserted and wore earplugs, when required. Finally, the company failed to develop a lockout/tagout program to prevent the unintentional operation of machinery during maintenance and ensure adequate machine guarding on stone cutters.
An OSHA violation is serious if death or serious physical harm could result from a hazard an employer knew or should have known exists.
Two other-than-serious violations were issued for failing to complete the OSHA injury and illness log as required and to post a copy of the occupational noise exposure standard. 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.
Baltazar's Stone 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 Omaha Area Office at 402-553-0171.
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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