OSHA proposes nearly $460,000 in fines to Panthera Painting Inc. for exposing workers to lead, other safety and health hazards
CANONSBURG, Pa. – The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration has cited Canonsburg-based Panthera Painting Inc. with 38 alleged violations—including 14 willful and 11 repeat—found at bridge work sites in Slatington, Harrisburg and Slatedale, where workers were exposed to lead and other safety and health hazards while performing abrasive blasting and repainting projects. Proposed penalties total $459,844.
“The employer’s refusal to correct the hazards, along with its history of failing to correct hazards, demonstrates a clear resistance to worker safety and health and leaves workers vulnerable to potential illnesses and injuries from overexposure to lead and other hazards,” said MaryAnn Garrahan, OSHA regional administrator in Philadelphia. “Employers have a legal responsibility to provide workers with safe and healthful workplaces. Anything less is unacceptable.”
The willful violations, with $365,750 in fines, include failing to properly protect workers from exposure to lead and provide fall protection. 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.
The repeat violations, with $63,294 in proposed penalties, relate to employee exposure to lead above the permissible exposure level; a lack of warning signs posted in lead work areas; failing to ensure workers showered at the end of each work shift; provide medical evaluations and fit tests for respirator users; notify employees of the results of lead monitoring; provide workers with initial medical surveillance for lead; provide blood tests every two months for employees exposed to lead; and certify the OSHA 300 injury and illness logs and monitor data in the lead compliance programs. A repeat violation 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. Similar violations were cited in 2011.
Due to the willful and repeat violations, Panthera has been placed in OSHA’s Severe Violator Enforcement Program, which mandates targeted follow-up inspections to ensure compliance with the law. The program focuses on recalcitrant employers that endanger workers by committing willful, repeat or failure-to-abate violations. For more information on the program, visit http://www.osha.gov/pls/oshaweb/owadisp.show_document?p_table=DIRECTIVES&p_id=4503.
Eleven serious violations with $30,800 in penalties were cited for allowing workers to have and/or consume food in the area where lead exposure was above the permissible level, not notifying employees in writing of blood lead test results within five days, lack of guarding on electric wiring to prevent accidental contact and ensuring workers wore respirators while blasting with glass media or when exposed to lead in excess of permissible limits. Additionally, the employer was cited for failing to provide personal protective equipment for workers when blasting, provide a dead man switch on the blasting nozzle, provide the proper filter for the vacuum used for cleaning lead and cadmium and train workers on the physical and health hazards of the chemical to which they were exposed. 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.
The company was also cited for two other-than-serious violations, with no penalty, for failing to indicate when a filter had been changed on a compressor and notify workers in writing of blood lead test results within five days. An other-than-serious violation is one that has a direct relationship to job safety and health, but probably would not cause death or serious physical harm.
Panthera has been inspected by OSHA five times in the last five years with four of these inspections resulting in the issuance of serious citations.
The company has 15 business days from receipt of the citations and penalties to comply, request an informal conference with the OSHA area director, or contest the findings before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.