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Abrasive Blasting Draws 17 Citations

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

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Allegations of worker overexposure to lead and silica as well as other health hazards have landed a Connecticut abrasive blasting contractor in trouble with federal authorities.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration cited Maher Industries (doing business as A Fast Blast Sandblasting & Restoration) for 17 serious violations after an April inspection prompted by a complaint during the renovation of a mill in Easthampton, MA. Proposed fines total $47,600.

AFastBlast
A Fast Blast

Founded in 1986, A Fast Blast provides field and shop abrasive blasting services.

Workers were exposed to up to 78 times the Threshold Limit Values for silica and 2.6 times the OSHA permissibile exposure limit for lead, OSHA said.

The company, based in Naugatuck, CT, is accused of "failure to supply basic, legally required safeguards," according to an OSHA announcement July 17.

Company Responds

A Fast Blast plans to contest the citations, a company spokesman, Jim Maher, told PaintSquare News via email Monday (July 21).

Maher said the company has worked with OSHA "from the very onset of concerns several months ago on this project" and a meeting would be scheduled with OSHA in upcoming weeks.

"We take care in making sure our employees are up to date on their certs and we carry out monthly safety meetings. Many of the citations have been abated previously," Maher wrote.

"We were als mistakenly cited for issues pertaining to unauthorized employees from other companies working within our abatement area."

Lack of Controls, PPE

OSHA found that employees were exposed to airborne concentrations of lead and silica generated by the abrasive blasting that exceeded the permissible exposure limits. Additional violations involved respirators.

According to the citations, the violations included:

  • Lack of procedures for respirators;
  • Lack of monitoring for carbon monoxide exposure and lack of CO alarms;
  • A respirator left on a floor overnight for use the next day;
  • Lack of medical evaluation, fit testing and training before workers used respirators;
  • Excessive exposures to lead and silica without an initial determination of exposure;
  • Lack of filters in respirators;
  • Lack of eye protection and protective clothing during blasting;
  • Allowing employees to drink beverages near the active blasting areas;
  • Lack of change areas and showers; and
  • Lack of air and blood sampling.
AFastBlast

The company is accused of 17 serious health violations, including respirator, lead and silica problems.

All of the violations are considered serious, meaning they are capable of causing death or serious physical harm.

A check of OSHA's database Monday showed no records for A Fast Blast.

'Well-Known' Hazards

"The hazards of lead and silica are well-known, and overexposure to them can seriously compromise the long-term health and well-being of workers," said OSHA area director Mary Hoye.

"The safeguards to protect workers are well-known to employers who oversee this work. It is their responsibility to ensure that proper and effective protections are used at each job site."

Lead exposure can cause long-term damage to the central nervous, urinary, blood and reproductive systems. Crystalline silica can cause lung cancer, silicosis, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and kidney disease in workers.

Companies have 15 business days from receipt of their citations and proposed penalties to comply with or contest the findings.

   

Tagged categories: Abrasive blasting; Contractors; Enforcement; Lead; OSHA; Respirators; Silica

Comment from M. Halliwell, (7/22/2014, 11:15 AM)

My response to Mr. Maher would be: "Just because your employees have their safety training certificates and you sit them down for a safety meeting every month, it doesn't mean that they are doing their job safely." I know guys with a wallet full of cards and who attend the monthly meetings that I avoid working around because they are not safe workers. OSHA may be right on target or off the mark, I don't know because I don't have all the facts on this one, but there is more to safety than pieces of paper/plastic and meeting attendance.


Comment from peter gibson, (7/22/2014, 6:06 PM)

I agree....Mr Maher is a smooth talker.OSHA carefully investigates.Therefore, they are right in this case. Simply amazing in this day and age.


Comment from John Linder, (7/24/2014, 8:15 AM)

Being third parties outside of the situation means we do not have all the facts nor fully understand the nuances here... But, I have to take exception to the statement, "...OSHA carefully investigates." They may have, but they also may not have. I was privy to an OSHA investigation where the inspector didn't know the difference from fall protection to confined space... for instance this OSHA inspector sited a contractor for failing to comply with fall protection standards, when in fact every man on the site was 100% tied-off. It took the typical conference meetings and higher level OSHA personnel to agree and remove the citation... the inspector's comments were he had never seen this before, he came from their environmental division. The resolution was positive but not until much time effort and money was expended...


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