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The U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration has issued citations to Lead Enterprises Inc. in Miami, Fla., alleging that the company knowingly neglected to protect employees from lead exposure. The company is being cited with 32 safety and health violations, and $307,200 in total proposed penalties.
"This company was well aware of what it needed to do to protect its workers from a well-known hazard but failed to provide that protection," said Assistant Secretary of Labor for OSHA Dr. David Michaels. "Lead exposure can cause many serious health issues including brain damage, kidney disease and harm to the reproductive system. Such a blatant disregard for OSHA's lead standard is shameful and will not be tolerated."
Lead Enterprises is a lead recycling and manufacturing company that produces lead products, including fish tackle, lead diving weights and lead-lined walls used in medical radiology facilities.
As a follow-up to a 2009 inspection, OSHA conducted a July 2010 inspection that resulted in four willful citations and proposed penalties of $224,000. The citations allege violations of OSHA's lead standard including exposing workers to lead above the permissible exposure limit; not providing engineering controls to reduce exposure; failure to perform ventilation measurements; failure to provide a clean change area; and failure to provide a suitable shower facility for workers exposed to lead above the permissible level. A willful violation exists when an employer has demonstrated either an intentional disregard for the requirements of the law or plain indifference to employee safety and health.
Additionally, 21 serious citations with proposed penalties of $70,400 allege that Lead Enterprises failed to perform an initial exposure determination for workers who clean the facility, to conduct quarterly monitoring, to notify workers of air monitoring results, to provide appropriate protective clothing, to maintain surfaces free from lead accumulation, to properly store oxygen and acetylene tanks in the facility, properly install production equipment, and to fix or remove defective forklift trucks. A serious citation is issued 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.
"The management of Lead Enterprises acknowledged awareness of the OSHA lead standard and the dangers associated with lead exposure but continued to allow the hazard to exist, exposing employees to a serious health risk," said Darlene Fossum, OSHA's area director in Fort Lauderdale.
Three repeat citations with a proposed penalty of $11,200 have been issued, alleging that the company failed to cover electrical wires on a furnace fan motor and record injuries on the OSHA recordkeeping forms for 2008 and 2010. A repeat citation is issued 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.
Two other-than-serious citations were issued with $1,600 in proposed penalties for failing to record instances of medical removal on OSHA 300 logs, and label containers that held lead-contaminated clothing. Two additional other-than-serious citations with no monetary penalties have been issued for failing to certify forklift operators and notify the laundering facility of lead exposure dangers.
In August 2010, OSHA issued citations to E.N. Range Inc. in Miami, a sister company of Lead Enterprises. E.N. Range is the primary lead supplier for Lead Enterprises, and both companies have the same owner. The earlier citations alleged that E.N. Range knowingly neglected to protect employees who clean gun ranges from serious overexposure to lead. E.N. Range also was cited for providing, without medical supervision, non-Food and Drug Administration-approved treatments for lead exposure. The company was cited for more than 50 violations of the lead and other standards, with total proposed penalties of $2,099,600. It is currently contesting the citations and penalties.
Lead Enterprises has 15 business days from receipt of the citations and proposed penalties to comply or contest the findings before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.