A small metal painter in Wisconsin is facing nearly $126,000 in federal fines for allegedly failing to provide workers with protective equipment, exposing them to skin rashes and irritations, authorities say.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration has cited Gardner Equipment Co. for 22 safety and health violations, including confined-space and respirator infractions, at its facilities in Columbus and Juneau, WI. Proposed fines total $125,900.
Employees at the two facilities paint metal birdhouses. The company has no prior record with OSHA.
A woman who answered the phone at Gardner said the company had no comment but was “working with OSHA.”
The allegations include one willful citation—OSHA’s highest level of infraction—for failing to ensure that workers used respirators, protective shields, personal protective equipment or protective clothing while using “powdered paint containing skin irritants and sensitizers,” OSHA said.
“A manager was made aware of some workers experiencing skin rashes on their arms and hands, a known side effect of the paint substance,” OSHA said in a release. “The company also failed to train workers on the use of personal protective equipment.”
That one violation carries a $44,000 penalty.
A willful violation implies intentional disregard for the law or plain indifferent to worker safety and health.
16 Serious Violations
The company was cited for 16 serious safety and health violations at the Columbus facility.
Those allegations include failure to:
• Establish a respiratory program that includes fit testing, medical evaluations and training;
• Properly clean and store respirators;
• Evaluate the workplace for confined space hazards and establish a permit-required confined space program;
• Establish and train workers in a hazard communication program;
• Have adequate explosion protection for combustible dust collectors and cyclones inside the building; and
• Establish an energy control program, including the provision of lockout/tagout devices and training on proper procedures.
Other serious violations include allowing workers to eat and drink in areas contaminated by hazardous chemicals and a nonfunctional automatic sprinkler and flame gate.
The company’s Juneau facility was cited for three serious safety violations involving its energy control program. Here, OSHA alleges:
• Lack of machine specific procedures;
• Failure to train employees on lockout/tagout procedures and lack of lockout devices; and
• Failure to establish a hazard communication program and provide related training.
Serious violations reflect “substantial probability” of death or serious injury from hazards that the company knew or should have known about.
An other-than-serious safety violation was cited at both facilities for failing to document performance of a hazard assessment regarding personal protective equipment.
“Gardner Equipment Co. has a responsibility to ensure its employees are properly protected from known hazards in the workplace,” said Kim Stille, OSHA’s area director in Madison.
“Failing to ensure workers use protective clothing and respiratory protection demonstrates a lack of regard for workers’ safety and health. OSHA is committed to protecting workers, especially when employers fail to do so.”