Enforcement, education part of L&I effort to protect workers in primary metals industry

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TUMWATER – In 2009, a worker at a Washington state foundry lost a leg and arm after falling into some molten steel. Months later, a worker at a galvanizing company also in Washington suffered severe burns when he stepped into some molten zinc. In other cases, workers have become seriously ill from exposure to metal dust, fumes and other harmful substances.

Incidents like these, and other health and safety risks associated with working in what is called the primary metals industry, have prompted the Department of Labor & Industries (L&I) to join a national effort to improve safety at these worksites. In Washington, about 70 businesses fall within the primary metals industry.

"Men and women working in foundries and other jobs where metal is cast or refined face several significant hazards, including exposure to lead and dangerous chemicals, extreme noise and heat, as well as injuries from the machinery and materials being used," said L&I Assistant Director Michael Silverstein, head of L&I's Division of Occupational Safety and Health (DOSH). "With this special emphasis, L&I hopes to reduce the risks these workers face."

As part of its emphasis, L&I:

  • Created a new Web page, www.PrimaryMetals.Lni.wa.gov, offering training materials and other resources.
  • Mailed an informational post card this week to nearly 70 businesses in the state within the primary metals industry.
  • Developed a slideshow depicting two serious injuries due to molten metal.
  • Will increase enforcement inspections throughout the state at these worksites.

The federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) began the national emphasis program last year, noting that, because of the hazards they face, workers in the primary metals industry have a national rate of injury and fatalities that exceeds other industries. That pattern remains true in Washington state.

Safety managers and employers can ask for one-on-one help dealing with the hazards at their worksites by contacting an L&I Safety and Health consultant at www.SafetyConsultants.LNI.wa.gov or by calling a local L&I office.

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For media information: Hector Castro, L&I, 360-902-6043.

Broadcast version: The Department of Labor & Industries has joined a national effort to improve safety at smelters, foundries and other metal processing facilities that make up the state's primary metals industry. The effort involves increased inspections, more safety and health outreach into the industry, including the development of a new Web page, www dot Primary Metals dot LNI dot wa dot gov with training materials and other information. Businesses in this industry should expect to receive a postcard in the mail announcing the effort.

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