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August 18, 1999

L&I fines foundry $129,600 for willful worker-safety violations

TUMWATER - The Department of Labor & Industries has fined Inland Foundry $129,600 for willfully violating safety and health regulations that protect workers from the health hazard of lead exposure at its Spokane-area plant.

The violations were found during a six-month investigation that was initiated as part of the department's targeted inspection program. The agency targets high-hazard industries and worksites for unannounced inspections.

Overexposure to lead is a serious health hazard that can result in damage to the brain, nerves, kidneys, blood cells and reproductive organs. Lead enters the body either by being inhaled or ingested as dust, mist or fumes in the air. Lead dust also can be swallowed if it gets on hands, clothes or beards, or gets in food, drinks or cigarettes.

Under the Washington Industrial Safety and Health Act (WISHA), employers are required to train, equip and protect their workers from exposure to lead.

The company was cited for two willful, 20 serious and five general violations. Willful violations indicate that the employer knowingly or intentionally violated worker-protection rules, or exhibited plain indifference that a violation was occurring and failed to take corrective action.

Specifically, the company:

  • Failed to conduct air monitoring of all workers whose exposure to lead was likely to exceed permissible levels. In one instance, only five of 25 workers whose jobs exposed them to lead fumes were sampled. ($31,050 penalty)
  • Failed to provide medical surveillance or medical monitoring for blood lead in workers whose exposure exceeded permissible levels. ($31,050)

In addition, the company was cited for 20 serious violations, including:

  • Failing to provide air monitoring of each job classification and work shift in the pouring area as required ($4,050)
  • Failed to conduct quarterly air sampling as required where employees exposed to lead fumes were likely to exceed permissible levels. ($4,050)
  • Failed to maintain medical monitoring records as required, including verification of accuracy. ($4,050)
  • Failed to document if respiratory protection - and the type of respirator - was used by workers whose exposure to lead fumes exceeded permissible exposure levels. ($4,050)
  • Failed to make medical examinations and consultations available for workers prior to their initial assignment to jobs where exposure to lead fumes was likely to exceed permissible levels. ($4,050)
  • Failed to establish and maintain a copy of the physician's written opinion for each employee undergoing medical surveillance. ($2,700)
  • Failed to make chemical sampling and analysis available to employees whose exposure to lead fumes exceeded action levels as required. ($4,050)
  • Failed to make blood-level sampling and analysis available every six months for workers whose exposure exceeded action levels more than 30 days a year. ($2,700)
  • Failed to perform face fit tests for workers using negative-pressure respirators for the first time. ($4,050)
  • Failed to perform face fit tests every six months for workers assigned to wear negative-pressure respirators. ($4,050)
  • Failed to provide a complete respirator protection program for controlling employee exposure to lead fumes. In addition, stored respirators were not protected from dust, heat and damaging chemicals are required. ($2,700 penalty)
  • Failed to allow workers the opportunity to leave the work area to wash respirators and faces whenever necessary to prevent skin irritation associated with respirator use. ($2,700)
  • Failed to ensure that respirator face pieces issued to workers were minimally free of leakage. ($2,700)
  • Failed to provide coveralls or similar full-body work clothing on at least a weekly basis for workers whose exposure to lead exceeded permissible limits. ($2,700)
  • Failed to provide for the cleaning, laundering or disposal of clothing worn by workers. ($2,700)
  • Failed to ensure that workers' lead-contaminated clothing was placed in a closed container in the change room. ($2,700)
  • Failed to take measurements to ensure the effectiveness of the ventilation system controlling lead fume exposure for furnace operators and other workers. ($2,700)
  • Failed to implement controls that reduced workers' lead exposure to permissible exposure limits. ($4,050)
  • Failed to establish and implement a written compliance program to reduce lead exposure to permissible levels for workers exposed for more than 30 days per year. (This program must consist of engineering and work-practice controls.) ($4,050)
  • Failed to ensure that workers did not consume food or bottled beverages in lead-contaminated areas. Also, the employer failed to ensure that exposed workers showered at the end of the work shift. In addition, the employer failed to ensure that lunchrooms were clean and ventilated, that workers and equipment were free of lead contamination, and that workers washed their hands and faces prior to eating. ($2,700)

Inland Foundry also was cited for five general violations related to respirators and air quality requirements. No penalties were assessed.

The employer has 15 days from receipt of the investigation findings to appeal.

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