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OSHA Alleges Lead-Hazard Violations in Bridge Project, Proposes $129,000 Penalty

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

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The Occupational Safety and Health Administration issued 35 citations against Panthera Painting Co. Inc., Canonsburg, PA, for allegedly exposing workers to dangerously high levels of lead, among other violations, while repainting and performing lead abatement at the George Wade Bridge in Harrisburg, PA. 

The company’s owner said the penalties would be contested.

The action includes citations for one “willful” violation for failing to properly monitor lead levels, and 29 “serious” violations for exposing workers to lead hazards and other alleged safety lapses.

Proposed penalties total $129,900.

OSHA said it began inspecting the site in September 2010 after being alerted to the hazards during another inspection involving the project's general contractor.

George Wade Bridge

“Panthera Painting's failure to implement the proper safeguards left employees exposed to lead levels above the permissible limit,” said Kevin Kilp, director of OSHA’s area office in Harrisburg. “Lead overexposure is a leading cause of workplace illness that can lead to serious adverse health problems.”

Andrew Manganas, Panthera Painting’s owner, told PaintSquare News, “We’re going to contest. We would never be guilty of a willful violation, putting someone’s life at risk. We use the best equipment in the industry.

“I’m not saying this is 100% wrong or right, but they looked at every little thing for two or three days. If you look around long enough at someone’s house, you’ll find something.”

The willful violation, with a penalty of $42,000, was issued for the company’s failure to monitor lead levels on a quarterly basis, OSHA said. A willful violation exists when an employer has demonstrated either an intentional disregard for the requirements of the law or plain indifference to employee safety and health.

The 29 serious violations, carrying a penalty of $87,300, include:

exposing workers to lead levels in excess of the permissible limit;

electrical hazards;

deficiencies in the company’s lead-protection program;

failing to properly provide medical evaluations for employees prior to respirator fit testing;

failing to provide initial respirator fit tests;

failing to ensure employees were using well-fitting respirators;

failing to provide ring buoys for emergencies;

failing to secure pneumatic tools to hoses; and

failing to guard pulleys and failing to provide fall protection to employees exposed to fall hazards as high as 60 feet. 

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, OSHA said.

The company also was cited for five other-than-serious violations, with a penalty of $600, for failing to properly record injuries and illnesses and to periodically inspect fire extinguishers. 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, OSHA said.

The company has 15 business days from receipt of the citations to comply, ask for an informal conference with OSHA’s area director, or contest the citations and proposed penalties before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.

OSHA's lead standards require employers to protect their workers from lead exposure, which can cause many serious health issues including brain damage, paralysis and kidney disease, as well as death. Detailed information about lead hazards is available on OSHA’s website at Lead Hazards


Tagged categories: Bridges; Enforcement; Health and safety; Lead; OSHA; Regulations; Violations

Comment from Billy Russell, (3/24/2011, 5:33 AM)

I wonder if this contractor is in fact QP1/QP2 rated. Guessing that they are since most specifications are now calling for them to be. I would like to hear from someone from the SSPC. I would ask "WHERE are you guys" who are in fact issuing these certifications? Notice that OSHA saw this during a previous visit for some other issue. I am calling out to the SSPC to start "Random unannounced" inspections of all QP-rated contractors working on all bridges across this country. When you arrive on site, do so with the resident engineer (DOT)of that particular project by your side so they also have a record of the results of that QP-certified contractor compliance inspection and together we can clean up that industry.(SSPC) Unfortunately, too many times I have seen potentially hazardous little red paint chips floating in the water below the bridge these guys are working on. After instructing the QP-rated contractor to "Stop work" and fix the hole in containment, he reluctantly complied. The company with the actual inspection contract asked me not to report what I found with regards to the abatement procedure violations (really) for fear they would be removed from the job. I sent my report to them Unchanged and documented the abatement procedure violations. SSPC) this is the reason I am calling for you to have (DOT) resident engineer for that project with you when you arrive on site to verify compliance with QP procedures from your QP-rated contractors. Together we can start documenting violations and add teeth to the QP certification program making sure it's not just a "CHECKBOOK" that gets them certified for the sake of the workers holding the blast hoses removing the lead and the potential exposure to the Public & environmental. (SSPC) get out of the office and and put Boots on the ground and help us weed out the bad seeds in this industry (NOW).

Comment from Billy Russell, (3/24/2011, 6:01 AM)

I would like to see the results of the Blood lead level of the actual people working on the project. I actually had a QP rated contractor (who also served on your committee), "Try to submit the test results of people who were never on the job and no longer work for them instead of the actual blasters on site the real results ended up showing workers on site had levels over 50........(SSPC) "We obviously have a problem" in the QP compliance issues come on out here and help me we can do it we are gonna have to get a little dirty and climb around some structure to find the leaks I will do that part you verify the paperwork on site come on out I will be glad to show you.

Comment from Doug DeClerck, (3/24/2011, 9:06 AM)

Who might Billy Russell be and whom might he work for?

Comment from Jerry LeCompte, (3/24/2011, 9:56 AM)

Just a minute ... is someone here suggesting that SSPC should be taking the position of another policing agency?

Comment from Billy Russell, (3/24/2011, 10:51 AM)

No I am not suggesting that at all,but they should be inspecting the ones for compliance that they are certifying,My current employer is not in the bridge inspection aspect of this business my opinion is based solely on my personal experience while in the inspection of Bridges in a state I will not disclose in order to protect the innocent contractors that actually follow proper procedure allthough few and far between

Comment from Jerry LeCompte, (3/24/2011, 11:31 AM)

I would suspect that inspections by SSPC would place them right in the middle of the legal liability highway. In real life at any given time a single employee, without the knowledge of management, can subject the company to presenting an illegal action. Do you think SSPC would place themselves in that position?

Comment from Thomas R. Shaffer,Jr, (3/24/2011, 3:20 PM)

Boys, boys, this is an ongoing thing that takes place every year. This contractor just got shut down because he wanted to get in and out like a lot of them do. You have seen it before. The state will let anyone paint a bridge if he or she can come up with a bond.

Comment from Doug Steitz, (3/24/2011, 10:14 PM)

Innocent until proven guilty. For clarification Penndot does not require any SSPC QP1 or QP2 on their bridge painting projects, nor does Ohio, so as i see it ranting over SSPC qualifications has no significance in this matter.

Comment from Doug Steitz, (3/24/2011, 10:19 PM)

Billy. for clarification blood lead levels are protected under hippa, the employess health related issues are there's and their employers business, not your's or the public's.

Comment from Billy Russell, (3/25/2011, 2:35 PM)

Doug the owner of a lead abatement project (is) entitled to ask for and receive verification that workers are in fact below the permissible Blood lead level ultimately it remains "OWNER generated waste" The state of NC requires that information and will receive it if you come to work on a bridge Before they start and one when they finish and if I am contracted to inspect I do verify there ID with the test I will keep everybody safe and healthy including the environment

Comment from shane hirvi, (3/25/2011, 5:07 PM)

I think SSPC has become a monster that cannot control itself. Every time I think of SSPC I dream about testing the legality of QP5 inspection firms being specified by the federal goverment. I believe that specifying a QP5 inspection company explicitly discriminates against small business, disadvantaged business, minority owned business and women’s owned businesses. If I had a spare five or six million to burn I'd like to test those waters.

Comment from Doug DeClerck, (3/25/2011, 6:07 PM)

Shane - Thanks for that great insight and understanding. Somebody actually gets it. It also appears to me that QA bridge inspection is going beyond the originally intended scope of work and/or responsibility. Since when are we QA Inspectors (NACE, SSPC or otherwise trained/certified) responsible for what an Industrial Hygienist should be doing? As for me, if such was to be my responsibility, I would need to back away - I am not IH - I know and understand the regulations, but certainly I am not qualified to assess such. I am a QA Inspector, proud of it, know my area of expertise. Let's leave QA to us and the rest to others with the proper training, certifications and qualifications. I guess if we look long and far we can come up with an individual or 2 that might be qualified for both jobs.

Comment from Doug Steitz, (3/25/2011, 6:37 PM)

Billy, neither you or the state of NC can ask for someone's blood lead or ZZP levels. Check your facts, do not get sued, and if there is anyone out there who worked in NC on lead abatement and Billy or NC got your blood lead levels, hire an attorney as you gotta case. Low, high, indifferent, it is against hippa and you can get big bucks from either Billy, the state of NC and/or both.

Comment from Tim Johnes, (3/25/2011, 6:53 PM)

It's unfortunate that no one has the manpower or money to properly enforce OSHA, EPA,or SSPC standards. It is a hit-and-miss game. The question is how can enforcement be paid for when it doesn't generate revenue. The other issue is always taking the low bid. This creates an environment for cheating.

Comment from Doug Steitz, (3/25/2011, 7:51 PM)

Billy, contact your attorney and perhaps he/she can steer you in the right direction ie minnesota 4/05, maine 7/08. What is it that you are trying to prove?? Is it a perfect world, do bridge painters not know the risks? As you know red lead paint is still used extensively today (2011), mostly by the US government because they know it is best. And what about OSHA? A great rule: if your blood level becomes too high, you get time off with pay, so now we have painters drinking 1-2 ounces of red lead primer each week so that their BLL is high. As others have asked, who are you? Who do you work for? Did your child die of lead poisoning? And what is your agenda? Guessing you are young??

Comment from Carlos Quintas, (3/28/2011, 2:08 AM)

Plain and simple: Companies know what they can get away with, and most of them will tell you that they don't need to follow some of the rules!!! Don't ask me why.

Comment from Billy Russell, (3/29/2011, 7:17 AM)

I love a good debate, not young, did check my facts. Worker safety is more important to me than your ridiculous case. What harm are you going to suffer by getting your blood work done before and after a job? I will be glad to defend my position if you are deliberately putting people in harm's way without proper training (and) PPE. I will step in and be proud to stand up and testify.

Comment from Ray Vickers, (3/30/2011, 7:36 AM)

Dear Mr. Steitz, What part of the U.S. Government still uses red lead paint? The Department of Defense and Department of Transportation do not use red lead paint and have not done so since the '80s when it was identified as a hazardous material. Zinc Chromate primer has also gone the same way as the red lead paint.

Comment from Doug Steitz, (4/1/2011, 7:40 PM)

Dear Ray, the Army National Guard, the United States Coast guard, the United States Army, the Army Corps of Engineers, Ray so that you have it right there is no U.S. department of transportation, they are state run, state run departments are not U.S. government(perhaps in your confused state of mind did you mean to say FHA??). Red lead primer is absolutely the best thing going, if used properly by trained people it is far better than IOZ or OZ. Oh lastly Ray, what are they using on the Brooklyn Bridge cables???? Do you know?? I do!!!

Comment from Chuck Pease, (4/1/2011, 8:30 PM)

Come on fellas, let's all face facts, any certification is only as good as the agency that issued it. All these certs don't mean squat if the governing agency that produced and backs the cert are policing to make sure everyone remains compliant to the certification. Otherwise it is just another money pit from which everything looks great at the cert level but once certification is gained, a lot of coatings contractors just go right back to cutting corners and trying to save a buck because we all live and work in a world where low dollars is everything. Personally, I don't think most people involved from the contractor level to the municipalities or the regulatory agencies really give a hoot. I may come across jaded, however it is just an opinion of a person that has been in the industry for 30 years.

Comment from Lee Edelman, (4/5/2011, 10:44 AM)

All contractors QP2 or not are required to comply with state, federal and local laws when in the process of lead abatement. Sometimes going with the low bid is not a good thing, more faster hurry, cutting corners, not making money is what too low of a bid will cause. In a lot of cases the low bid should be thrown out if it is seen the project estimate is higher than the accepted bid.

Comment from Tom Schwerdt, (4/6/2011, 8:21 AM)

There seems to be some misunderstanding here - I've seen SSPC out onsite auditing QP1/QP2 certified contractors, heard of several other audits from reputable sources and know of one contractor who was suspended from the QP program.

Comment from Josh Inklovich, (12/30/2011, 6:11 PM)

Sounds to me that there are a few people who don't necessarily have all of their "facts" in order. 1. Both PennDOT and Ohio DOT require QP-certifications to paint. Period. I have done extensive business in both states. 2. Owners can certainly require disclosure of lead tests. If you and/or your employees don't want to disclose, that is fine. You just won't get the work. I have been in the position, personally. 3. The SSPC does to pop in, working audits. They DO check for safety. I have worked at/with 3 different QP certified companies and have had to deal with said pop ins. Worker safety has been an aspect of the audits. In fact, I had more safety deficiencies indicated than paint QC issues (by far!). 4. Since when does the Corp of Engineers use lead paint? I'd like to see that spec. I have done many corps of engineers projects over the last decade -- for many different districts -- and I have never seen red lead paint specified. Super high VOC vinyls? Sure. Lead? Nope. 5. Finally, what the hell does the district engineer have to do with the SSPC's certification process? Is it being insinuated that my tax dollars should pay a bureaucrat to walk with an SSPC auditor to ensure certification compliance? I should surely think not. The SSPC is a private entity and should not have the benefit of tax-payer provided audit assistance. To even suggest such a thing is ludicrous. If PA wants to provide audits of its bridge contractors, then it needs to set up a program to do so -- if it is determined that the SSPC certification is meaningless. In that event, SSPC certs should be removed from the specifications. I believe it is perfectly acceptable for the government/owner to have faith that the SSPC QP-1/2/3/6 mean something. A certification does not mean that every certified entity is going to be fine and upstanding. There are how many certified MD's in this country? Most do a good job. There are some bad apples. Does this mean that the overall certification means nothing, that the certifying entity means nothing, and that the US Dept. of Health and Human Services should assist in auditing every doctor? Hmmmmmm... I think not. I have worked with too many employees in the coating field that just don't do things how they are instructed (ie keep their respirators on, wash hands before eating/smoking, leave guards on equipments, etc). You can say fire them if they can't listen -- but have you tried to hire an experienced industrial painter recently? News flash -- there is a shortage. Maybe the solution isn't more audits and government interventions. Perhaps an option is to develop a quality training program that provides a 360 degree education. Perhaps the training should be provided to kids who see a bright future in coatings as opposed to down and outs who see it as one of the few jobs they can get. Just sayin...

Comment from M. Halliwelll, (1/4/2012, 11:38 AM)

Unfortunately, contractors who want to get things done cheaply and quickly (but not necessarily the right way) are common in the industry. I am not a coatings inspector, but I have dealt with a number of local bridge rehabs in an auditing role for environmental operations. Some contractors "get it" and do the job right...their containments are properly sealed off, the employees are fully trained and wear the proper safety gear and they are looking out for the surrounding environment. Others....well, I've seen containments that make it look like the bridge is on fire for the amount of dust and blasting spoil billowing out of the containment and the contractor has insisted it was perfectly okay and to spec (until shown a hard copy of the spec and the owner threatened to shut them down if they didn't fix it). I've also found it tends to be the latter type of contractor that will pass a guy off the street a set of coveralls, a respirator and throw them into a containment with an orientation and little else. It's not easy to get rid of the fly-by-night types...but it is possible to get safe, quality work done. Sometimes, though, it takes a little harder look at the bidders, rather than the bottom line.

Comment from Andy Jones, (7/4/2013, 9:00 AM)

This is a joke, the company is to busy buying bentleys and other expensive items to care about their workers. They should be busted for all laws that they do not abide by. Owner will just file for bankruptcy to get out of the fines

Comment from Steve Edgar, (7/8/2013, 5:13 AM)

I checked the SSPC website to see if Panthera Painting was a QP1 or QP2 certified contractor. No listing for them in PA. I am sure the coating portion of this project is shutdown until that company provides the proper training, PPE, BLL tests, etc. I suspect the local/state/fed EPA is aware of this. Would water and soil sampling be the next step in that investigation process? I wonder what the GC will do and who will pay the LD's should this project be delayed beyond the completion date? I am sure there are many QP1 and QP2 certified contractors in that area. Maybe they should be contacting the GC in order to complete this project safely.

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