In May 2020, OSHA warned a Tampa battery recycling facility and smelter about the unsafe measures of lead exposure in their workplace.
A recent OSHA investigation found that no changes were made, resulting in worker exposure to lead inhalation hazards and 44 OSHA violations totaling nearly $320,000, including one “willful” violation for not providing adequate respirators to workers who were exposed to high concentrations of lead across four departments.
That one citation, alone, carries a fine total of $136,532. The company was also issued 18 “serious” citations and nine “other-than-serious” citations.
“This employer put their bottom line above the safety and well-being of their workers,” said OSHA Area Director Danelle Jindra in Tampa.
Breaking down the OSHA violations
- Allowing cadmium, lead, and inorganic arsenic exposure levels above the permissible exposure limit.
- Not implementing adequate engineering and work practice controls to prevent lead and inorganic arsenic exposure levels above the permissible exposure limit.
- Failing to provide an annual update of the written compliance program for cadmium, inorganic lead, and arsenic.
- Allowing workers to share aluminized jackets that were damaged and stored in the open, and exposed to lead.
- Requiring workers to wear respirators that were not fit-tested annually.
- Using shoveling, sweeping, or brushing methods to remove lead accumulations.
- Not identifying all hazards on entry permits.
“Every worker has the right to a safe workplace, and they should never have to decide between their own health and earning a living,” Jindra said.
“Continuing to put workers in harm’s way is unacceptable, and OSHA will continue to hold employers like [this] responsible.”
A second company with ties to the battery recycling facility and smelter was also cited for failing to maintain a respiratory program for its team. They face $16,384 in penalties.
The dangers of lead exposure
Lead exposure mostly occurs in industries such as construction, manufacturing, wholesale trade, transportation, and recreation.
Exposure happens during the production and/or use of rechargeable batteries, lead bullets, and radiators. Overexposure, via ingestion and inhalation, leads to severe health issues, such as lowered blood levels, which result in decreased cognitive function.
Symptoms of lead exposure include the following:
- Abdominal pain
- Loss of appetite
- Memory loss
- Pain or tingling in the hands and/or feet
OSHA’s lead standard
Under OSHA’s lead standard, 29 CFR 1910.1025, there is a permissible exposure limit of 50 micrograms of lead per cubic meter of air, as averaged over an 8-hour period.
Employers are required to use engineering controls and work practices when possible to reduce worker exposure. Additionally, employees must observe good personal hygiene practices and should be provided with protective clothing and respiratory protection in accordance with 29 CFR 1910.134.
Employees exposed to high levels of lead, or any other sort of toxic heavy metal or substance, are required to be enrolled in a medical surveillance program at no cost to the employees.
Such a program focuses on screening for early diagnosis and treatment, as well as detecting and eliminating causes of the hazards or exposure. Normally, it involves sending your team to a medical clinic for testing, which leaves them and you open to risk, whether it’s productivity loss or off-site injury. You can avoid that risk with mobile medical surveillance testing.
As per OSHA, both companies have 15 days to comply with the OSHA citations, contest the findings before an independent commission, or to request an informal conference with OSHA.
If you need to develop an OSHA-compliant respiratory program, or any medical surveillance program in general, we’re here to help. Schedule your mobile medical surveillance testing by completing the form below or by calling us at 1-844-OCCUMED. Keep your team safe and stay ahead of OSHA inspections with Worksite Medical.
About Worksite Medical
In most cases, OSHA requires medical surveillance testing, and at no cost to employees.
Worksite Medical makes that program easier with mobile medical testing.
We conduct on-site respirator fit tests, as well as audiometric exams, pulmonary function tests, and heavy metal lab work, right on your job site. We also keep accurate, easy-to-access medical records for your convenience. You’ll keep your employees at work, and stay ahead of OSHA inspections.
With Worksite Medical, a mobile medical testing unit — we can bring all the resources of a lab to you. Our certified lab technicians can perform both qualitative and quantitative respirator tests to ensure a perfect fit.
Protect your team and your workplace now with Worksite Medical. Not sure what you need? Try our medical testing wizard here.
Give us a call at 1-844-622-8633, or complete the form below to schedule an on-site visit or to get your free quote!