July 16, 2015
Welders and grinders face toxic metal,
noise hazards at Springfield, Missouri, plant
Storage tank manufacturer ignores toxic exposure rules, faces $74K in fines
SPRINGFIELD, Mo. - A storage tank manufacturer exposed workers to hazardous levels of hexavalent chromium and potentially deafening noise as they welded and grinded stainless steel and other alloy steels. At high levels, hexavalent chromium can cause lung cancer and respiratory, eye and skin damage.
U.S. Department of Labor Occupational Safety and Health Administration inspectors issued 12 serious safety violations on July 13 to Abec Inc., which manufactures food-grade stainless steel tanks for use by the biopharmaceutical industry. Proposed penalties total $74,000.
"Each year, 50,000 workers die from exposure during their careers to hazardous substances, like chromium. Failing to limit exposure to this dangerous substance is inexcusable," said Barbara Theroit, area director of OSHA's Kansas City office. "Abec needs to re-evaluate its health and safety procedures. As companies expand, they must review procedures and ensure their facilities are monitored for employee exposure to hazardous materials."
Opened in February, the inspection is part of the agency's National Emphasis Program for Hexavalent Chromium.
Agency inspectors found one employee exposed to hexavalent chromium at levels exceeding permissible exposure limits while welding and grinding steel containing chromium metal. Alloy steel has chromium added to harden the steel and resist corrosion. Inspectors also found the company failed to implement engineering controls to reduce and monitor exposure levels among workers, and did not conduct additional monitoring after expanding the production process in 2006, 2008 and 2014.
The inspection also found three workers exposed to noise levels in excess of the action level for an eight-hour shift. The agency also identified violations of OSHA's respiratory protection standards and improperly adjusted rests on a grinder, which could expose workers to machinery operating parts.
Based in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, Abec employs about 215 workers at the Springfield facility. Its workforce there has tripled in the past few years.
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 amputations, eye loss, 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 Kansas City Area Office at 816-483-9531.
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: 15-1330-KAN
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