OSHA Sites Workers Being Exposed to Extremely Toxic Materials
The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) recently issued notices to the Fleet Readiness Center Southwest regarding violations of workplace health and safety standards at its facility in Coronado, outside San Diego, that exposed workers to extremely toxic materials such as lead, cadmium and beryllium.
Fleet Readiness Center Southwest is an agency of the U.S. Navy and has a workforce of about 10,000 employees nationwide. The Coronado aircraft maintenance facility employs approximately 500 workers.
Federal Agencies Must Comply with Same Safety Standards, Can’t Be Fined
As required by the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970, federal agencies must comply with the same health and safety standards as private sector employers. The federal agency equivalent of a private sector citation is the notice of an unhealthful or unsafe working condition, which informs agency officials of violations. OSHA cannot propose monetary penalties against another federal agency for failure to comply with its standards.
“Exposing workers to metals such as lead, cadmium and beryllium can result in serious illness and even fatal respiratory disease,” said Jay Vicory, director of OSHA’s San Diego Area Office. “We are encouraged by the Department of the Navy’s response to OSHA’s intervention, and we are working cooperatively with that department to further mitigate the hazards uncovered.”
Food & Beverages Contaminated by Toxic Materials
Two alleged willful violations involve allowing workers to store and consume food and beverages in areas contaminated by toxic materials such as lead, cadmium and beryllium; hazards associated with the accumulation of cadmium in the workplace; and hazards associated with dry sweeping, which may be used only when vacuuming or other methods to minimize the likelihood of cadmium dust becoming airborne have been tried and are not effective. A willful violation is one committed with intentional knowing or voluntary disregard for the law’s requirements, or with plain indifference to worker safety and health.
Two alleged serious violations involve the accumulation of lead dusts throughout the workplace, the use of dry sweeping to clean work areas where lead was found, and a failure to implement a program for beryllium hazard prevention and control. 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.
Inspected 3 times in 2011, 21 Serious Violations
The facility was inspected by OSHA three times in 2011, resulting in notices for 21 serious violations, including two related to the accumulation of cadmium.
Fleet Readiness Center Southwest has 15 business days from receipt of the latest notices to comply or request an informal conference with OSHA’s area director in San Diego.
Author Michael B. Stack, CPA, Director of Operations, Amaxx Risk Solutions, Inc. is an expert in employer communication systems and part of the Amaxx team helping companies reduce their workers compensation costs by 20% to 50%. He is a writer, speaker, and website publisher. www.reduceyourworkerscomp.com. Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org.
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