Painters, blasters and sanders at Hill Air Force Base are working with excessive noise, lack of respiratory protection, lack of training, and excessive exposures to cadmium, hexavalent chromium and other toxic metals, according to dozens of federal citations issued against the base and a contractor.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration has cited the base, in Ogden, UT, for 32 serious and eight other-than-serious violations of safety and health standards. OSHA also cited contractor Affordable Engineering Services LLC for 12 violations related to hazardous contaminant exposure at the base and fined the company $51,850.
|An F-22 Raptor sits in front of Hill AFB’s new 75,000-square-foot, “one-stop” maintenance facility, used mainly for painting. The facility opened in September 2010.|
Hill joins a growing list of military painting operations that have drawn OSHA’s scrutiny recently. Warner Robins Air Logistics Center in Georgia is in the process of addressing 49 OSHA citations—many of them painting related—unloaded in three waves over the winter. Earlier this month, OSHA issued 37 citations at Fort Bragg, including some related to painting.
Air Base Violations
The inspection was conducted as part of OSHA’s Federal Agency Targeting Inspection Program, which focuses on federal work sites with a high number of work-related injury and illnesses. OSHA is responsible for inspecting federal agency sites, although it cannot fine other agencies.
The citations leveled against the base include allegations of:
• Employees sanding and abrasive blasting in multiple buildings at noise exposures up to 11 times the Permissible Exposure Limit (PEL);
• Lack of safeguards on cyanide tanks to prevent the chemical from mixing with acid;
• Lack of eye or face protection for employees working with liquid chemicals, acids and caustic liquids used in electroplating;
• Lack of clean respirators—and, sometimes, ill-fitting or no respirators—for employees painting with products that include strontium chromate, cadmium and hexavalent chromium (Cr-VI) aerosol;
• Improperly stored respirators, including one stored in a spray paint booth during spraying with Cr-VI;
• Exposure of painters and blasters to cadmium, iron oxide dust, copper dust and Cr-VI dust and aerosol at levels up to 91.5 times the PEL;
• Employees not required to shower or properly remove metal dust from their clothes, resulting in toxic metals residue found in restrooms, break rooms and “clean lockers”;
• Methylene chloride exposure and lack of training, monitoring and appropriate hand protection in paint stripping operations;
• Improper confined space entry procedures;
• Failure to properly record injuries and illnesses;
• Inspection, training, maintenance and other hazards involving exposure to sulfur dioxide used to treat hexavalent chromium at the base’s wastewater treatment plant; and
• A 2007 release of sulfur dioxide that was not reported.
A serious violation reflects “substantial probability” of death or serious injury from a hazard about which the employer knew or should have known.
The other-than-serious violations involve failing to properly maintain the OSHA 300 logs for work-related injuries and illnesses; document lockout/tagout procedures for energy sources; administer a respiratory protection program; determine through testing if employee chemical exposures are below the action level; and perform air monitoring for both cadmium and methylene chloride.
“Among the violations found at the base, workers are exposed to excessive levels of hazardous air contaminants, and providing necessary controls is critical to preventing disease,” said Herb Gibson, OSHA’s Denver Area Office director. “Many of these violations could have been corrected earlier if the base had implemented a more effective safety and health management system aimed at identifying workplace hazards and reducing the likelihood of harm to employees.”
Affordable Engineering Services, which provides aircraft maintenance at the base, is accused of:
• Exposing workers to air contaminants, including hexavalent chromium, cadmium and methylene chloride;
• Lack of engineering controls for air contaminants and noise exposures;
• Inadequate medical surveillance for employees exposed to hexavalent chromium and cadmium;
• Lack of appropriate change rooms;
• Failure to train workers on hazardous chemicals; and
• Improper training for respiratory protection.
Said Gibson: “These violations could have been avoided if the employer had followed OSHA’s expanded health standards for chromium and cadmium.”