OSHA News Release - (Archived) Table of Contents|
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) today fined the largest U.S. copper smelter, Franklin Smelting and Refining Corp. of Philadelphia, $821,360 for exposing its employees to life-threatening levels of airborne lead and cadmium, as well as numerous other health and safety violations.
"Every American worker has a right to a safe and healthy workplace and one of my top priorities is to make that right a reality," said Secretary of Labor Alexis M. Herman. "We cannot allow employers to continuously place their employees at risk of death or serious injury by ignoring good safety and health practices. By its long history of exposing its employees to the poisonous effect of lead -- in some cases almost 60 times the legal limit -- Franklin Smelting brought these penalties on itself."
Franklin Smelting is a secondary copper smelter, with 108 employees. The company receives copper-bearing scrap from a variety of sources and then processes the scrap into nearly pure bars of copper called "pigs" for sale. Lead and cadmium are unwanted byproducts of the process.
OSHA issued citations for six instance-by-instance alleged willful violations at $56,000 per instance totaling $336,000 in penalties; 10 other alleged willful violations, including violations of the cadmium standard, with a combined penalty of $416,000; four alleged repeat violations, with a penalty of $10,160; four alleged serious violations, with a total penalty of $11,200; and one alleged other-than-serious violation, as well as a failure-to-abate notification, with a penalty of $48,000.
Acting Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health Gregory R. Watchman said, "Some of the employee lead exposures found by OSHA in the latest inspection were almost 60 times the maximum permissible exposure limit. These over- exposures can produce damaging health effects on workers such as anemia and kidney problems, as well as damage to the central nervous system."
OSHA's latest inspection was in response to a referral from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), which entered into a final consent decree in March 1997 with Franklin Smelting concerning violations of the Clean Air Act. Franklin Smelting spent $3 million to enclose its operations and to treat the air before it left the plant. Despite OSHA's advice, the company failed to provide proper ventilation of the enclosure and the net effect was to increase employees' exposure to air contaminants inside the plant.
At any given time, about 10 percent of the 75 employees exposed to lead in their jobs had blood lead levels that required them to either be medically removed from the lead exposure or that indicated possible damaging health effects from lead.
Franklin Smelting has had 29 previous OSHA inspections, 18 of them for health and 11 for safety. Employee overexposure to airborne inorganic lead has been a recurring issue of concern in the previous health inspections. During those inspections the levels of lead in the air have usually been higher than what is now the OSHA permissible exposure limit of 50 micrograms per cubic meter of air. Some exposures found in the latest inspection were worse than those found in the 1980's, ranging from 91 micrograms per cubic meter to 2900 micrograms per cubic meter.
Following these previous inspections, the company sent OSHA abatement information including monitoring results that indicated the violations were abated. When OSHA conducted follow-up inspections, its inspectors found that the violations had apparently been abated for a brief period of time, making it impossible to issue failure-to-abate notices. Instead, the agency would issue new or repeat citations.
Franklin Smelting has 15 working days to contest the citations and proposed penalties before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.
Alleged Willful Violations
Six instances of exposing employees to lead at concentrations
greater than 50 micrograms per cubic meter of air averaged over
an 8-hour period, $56,000 per instance.
Total penalty, $336,000
Failure to provide adequate engineering controls to reduce
exposures to lead, to semi-annually revise a written compliance
program, and to make required measurements of ventilation system
used to control exposure to lead.
Failure to provide adequate respiratory protection against
Failure to provide protective clothing against lead and
failure to provide for the cleaning and laundering of such
Removing lead dust from clothing by blowing it into the air
and inadequate removal of lead dust from clothing before
employees enter lunch room.
Dry sweeping lead dust from floors.
Failure to conduct adequate medical surveillance program for
employees exposed to lead.
Failure to provide annual training on lead standard for
Exposing employees to airborne concentration of cadmium in
excess of five micrograms per cubic meter of air as an eight-hour
time-weighted average exposure and failure to provide cadmium
Various violations of the cadmium standard such as taking
home clothing with cadmium, removing cadmium dust by air, not
removing cadmium dust, and dry sweeping cadmium dust.
Failure to conduct adequate medical surveillance program for
employees exposed to cadmium.
Total Proposed Penalties for Alleged Willful Violations
(Willful violations are those committed with an intentional disregard of, or plain indifference to, the requirements of the Occupational Safety and Health Act and regulations.)
Failure to Abate Notification
Failure to provide cadmium training program.
(Failure to correct a previous violation can bring a penalty based on each day the violation continues beyond the prescribed abatement date.)
Alleged Serious Violations
Failure to provide point of operation guarding on machinery.
Failure to guard rotating shaft on machinery.
Exposing employees to copper in concentrations in excess of
the permissible exposure limit and failure to provide engineering
controls for copper.
No annual cadmium program review and no measurements of
Total Proposed Penalties for Alleged Serious Violations
(A serious violation is defined as one in which there is a substantial probability that death or serious physical harm could result, and the employer knew or should have known of the hazard.)
Alleged Repeat Violations
Not recording employee medical removals under the lead
Inadequate access to medical/exposure records.
Surface contaminated by lead.
Cadmium contamination on surface and on lunch tables.
Total Proposed Penalties for Alleged Repeat Violations
(A repeat violation is one in which the employer has been cited previously for a substantially similar condition and the citation has become a final order.)
GRAND TOTAL OF PROPOSED PENALTIES
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