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Region 5 News Release: 11-1639-CHI
Nov. 28, 2011
Contact: Scott Allen      Rhonda Burke
Phone: 312-353-6976      312-353-6976
Email: allen.scott@dol.gov      burke.rhonda@dol.gov

US Labor Department's OSHA cites Northern Steel Castings in
Wisconsin Rapids, Wis., for exposing workers to respiratory hazards

WISCONSIN RAPIDS, Wis. – The U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration has cited Northern Steel Castings Inc. for two safety and four health violations at its Wisconsin Rapids carbon steel foundry, including for overexposing workers to crystalline silica, a known respiratory hazard. Proposed fines total $95,480.

"Exposing workers to a known hazardous substance, such as crystalline silica, beyond OSHA's permissible exposure limit is unacceptable," said Kim Stille, OSHA's area director in Madison. "Employers have a responsibility to monitor workers' exposure to known hazards in their industries, and to ensure that work environments are healthful and safe."

OSHA initiated the inspection after receiving a complaint alleging overexposure to crystalline silica, a basic component of soil, sand, granite and other minerals. When workers chip, cut, drill or grind objects that contain silica, small particles can be created that are respirable. Breathing crystalline silica dust can cause silicosis, an incurable condition that reduces the ability of lungs to take in oxygen. OSHA's inspection confirmed that workers were overexposed to crystalline silica and one willful safety violation was cited. A willful violation is one committed with intentional, knowing or voluntary disregard for the law's requirement, or plain indifference to employee safety and health.

Northern Steel Castings also was cited for two repeat health violations for allowing workers to be overexposed to iron oxide and copper fumes in the foundry, and for exposing employees to fire hazards when welding inside plywood booths. A repeat violation exists when an employer previously has been cited for the same or a similar violation of a standard, regulation, rule or order at any other facility in federal enforcement states within the last five years. The company was cited for these violations in 2006.

Additionally, three serious health violations were cited for failing to keep eating surfaces free from contamination by hexavalent chromium; failing to provide ventilation when welding, and for failing to provide adequate emergency exits. A serious violation occurs when there is substantial probability that death or serious physical harm could result from a hazard about which the employer knew or should have known.

Northern Steel Castings had been inspected by OSHA 24 times prior to this inspection and was cited for overexposure to silica six other times. 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 Madison Area Office at 608-441-5388.

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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U.S. Department of Labor news materials are accessible at http://www.dol.gov. The information above is available in large print, Braille, audio tape or disc from the COAST office upon request by calling 202-693-7828 or TTY 202-693-7755.


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