The U.S. Occupational Health and Safety Administration has proposed $321,000 in fines against an Ohio painting company accused of exposing workers to lead.
The company has been cited by OSHA before, and a fatal accident in a separate case remains under investigation.
OSHA has accused bridge and water tower painter UCL Inc., of Cincinnati, of willful, egregious and serious violations of federal workplace safety and health standards.
OSHA began its inspection in May, where UCL was abrasive-blasting paint from two bridge overpasses on I-75 near Middletown, Ohio. The inspection revealed nine alleged willful and two serious violations. Hazards identified as willful allege a variety of violations of the federal lead-in-construction standard, including a lack of appropriate respirators and protective clothing; failing to maintain eating areas free of lead contamination; and failing to remove lead dust from equipment before workers entered designated eating areas.
OSHA defines a willful violation as one committed with plain indifference to or intentional disregard for employee safety and health.
Four of the willful violations are also classified as egregious; these relate to the employer's failure to provide clean protective clothing to workers on a daily basis, OSHA said. By designating violations as egregious, OSHA can assess penalties for each time the violation occurs, rather a single penalty for all violations of one regulation.
The two serious violations address an inadequate lead-compliance program and failing to provide adequate hand-washing facilities for employees. A serious citation is issued 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.
"Few Americans are aware of lead's deadly effects or the fact that lead taken home on clothing and work tools can infect an entire family," said Richard Gilgrist OSHA area director in Cincinnati. "The cost of employee and family health is far too great a price to pay for anyone to ignore this hazard. All of us want to see working men and women go home safe and without carrying toxic substances into their homes at the end of every work shift."
While UCL has been in business since 1999, the company owner previously owned United Painting Co., a business that was cited repeatedly by OSHA for lead standard violations. UCL also has received numerous citations, many of which were for violations of federal lead standards. An Aug. 27 fatal accident at another bridge painting worksite of UCL, along the same I-75 construction corridor, is still under investigation.