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OSHA News Release – Region 4
U.S. Department of Labor
Region 4 News Release: USDOL: 01-16
Mon., Feb. 12, 2001
Contact: Terry Bailey
OSHA CITES ALABAMA FIRM FOR OVER-EXPOSING EMPLOYEES TO METHYLENE CHLORIDE
The U.S. Labor Department's Occupational Safety and Health Administration has cited Alaco Sales, Inc., for 12 serious health violations and proposed penalties totaling $27,000 for over-exposing employees to high levels of methylene chloride at the company's Russellville plant.
According to Terry Bailey, OSHA's Birmingham assistant area director, the investigation began Nov. 16, following a compliant filed with the agency about a process at the facility which uses an adhesive containing 60 percent methylene chloride. The agency found that six employees --- who wore no respiratory or eye protection --- were exposed to as much as 14 times the permissible exposure level during a spraying operation to attach a layer of batting to foam cushions.
"Employees must be protected when they work with hazardous chemical," Bailey said. "Fortunately, someone alerted us to the problem at this facility and we were able to take action."
In addition to violations of the permissible exposure levels, the company was cited for failure to:
- provide employee training on the proper use of a hazardous chemical;
- perform a workplace assessment to determine employee exposure levels;
- reduce exposure levels by adequate engineering controls and/or safe work practices;
- have procedures in place to detect leaks or spills;
- have an emergency action plan;
- properly dispose of waste materials contaminated by methylene chloride.
"Depending on the length and level of exposure to the chemical vapors, employees may experience only minor reactions, or more serious, even fatal effects," Bailey said. "Some medical studies suggest a possible relationship between methylene chloride exposure and an increased risk of certain cancers."
Methylene chloride is a mild narcotic. Chronic, long-term inhalation exposure affects the central nervous system, causing headaches, dizziness, nausea, and memory lost. Exposure to the chemical may also cause elevated carbon monoxide levels in the blood, particularly for workers who smoke, are anemic, or have heart disease.
A serious violation is one in which there is a substantial probability that death or serious physical harm could result and that the employer knew or should have known of the hazard.
The company has 15 working days to contest OSHA's citations and proposed penalties before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.
The investigation of this accident was conducted by OSHA's area office located at Vestavia Village, 2047 Canyon Road, Birmingham, AL 35216-1981: telephone: (205) 731-1534.
OSHA urges employers and employees with questions regarding workplace safety and health standards to contact the Birmingham office. OSHA's toll-free nationwide hotline, 1-800-321-6742, (1-800-321-OSHA) may be used to report workplace accidents, fatalities or situations posing imminent danger to workers, especially if they occur outside normal business hours.
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