Lack of soap, towels, and showers; inadequate respirators; and forced use of vacation time for mandatory medical examinations of employees working with toxic chemicals are among the federal allegations lodged against a Georgia manufacturing plant.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration has cited Tenneco Automotive Operating Co. Inc. for 16 safety and health violations at its facility in Hartwell, GA. Proposed fines total $79,300.
|The citations allege lack of basic health precautions for employees working with toxic chemicals.|
Tenneco Automotive is a division of Tenneco Inc., a global transportation components manufacturer headquartered in Lake Forest, IL. The company’s well-known brands include Monroe, Walker, DynoMax, and Marzocchi.
OSHA issued 19 citations against the same facility in April 2011 and three citations in December 2011. Those cases are pending.
Tenneco did not respond Friday (July 20) to a request for comment.
Hexavalent Chromium Exposures
Many of the 14 serious violations allege lack of basic health precautions to protect employees from exposure to hexavalent chromium, a toxic carcinogen used in protective coatings and other industrial applications.
Industrial uses of hexavalent chromium (also called chromium VI) compounds include chromate pigments in dyes, paints, inks, and plastics; chromates added as anticorrosive agents to paints, primers, and other surface coatings; and chromic acid electroplated onto metal parts to provide a decorative or protective coating.
Workers who breathe hexavalent chromium compounds at their jobs for many years may be at increased risk of developing lung cancer. Breathing high levels of hexavalent chromium can irritate or damage the nose, throat and lungs. Irritation or damage to the eyes and skin can occur after contact with hexavalent chromium in high concentrations or for a prolonged period of time.
At Tenneco Automotive, the hexavalent chromium exposures relate mostly to the plating area, according to OSHA documents.
The 14 serious violations include failure to:
• Train and educate employees about working with chromium VI;
• Clean up chromium VI spills and leaks;
• Keep the chemical out of employee eating, drinking and break areas;
• Provide adequate personal protective equipment for employees;
• Enforce respirator rules and maintain equipment;
• Have employees remove contaminated clothing and shower before leaving the plant; and
• Provide free medical surveillance for employees with symptoms of excessive hexavalent chromium exposure (employees were told to use vacation time and were not reimbursed for travel).
Other serious violations include trip-and-fall hazards, lack of machine guarding, and inadequate equipment inspections.
Serious violations reflect hazards that carry substantial probability of death or serious physical injury.
Two other-than-serious violations involve improper recordkeeping in the OSHA log and allowing a temporary electrical extension cord to be used as permanent wiring.
The company has 15 business days to appeal the case or comply.
“Tenneco needs to take proactive steps to halt these safety and health hazards,” said William Fulcher, director of OSHA’s Atlanta-East Area Office.
Tenneco Automotive locations in nine states have been inspected two dozen times and cited on 12 different occasions in the last 10 years by OSHA, records show.
In addition to the two rounds of 2011 citations, the Georgia plant received six citations in 2009; one in December 2005; and two in May 2005.
Said Fulcher, “OSHA will not tolerate employers who fail in their duty to keep their workers safe.”