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Bridge Coating Firm Fined for Lead

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

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A Florida-based industrial coatings contractor is facing $58,800 in federal fines after receiving 13 serious citations alleging excessive lead exposures during abrasive blasting.

Atlas Steel Coatings Inc. president Louis Alfieri said Tuesday (Jan. 27) that his company would contest the citations and fines announced Monday (Jan. 26) by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration.

"Our tests concluded that at no time on the project, were Atlas employees exposed at or above the PEL,"Alfieri said. "Our tests also concluded that no employee's blood lead level came close to the PEL before, during, or after blasting on the project."

OSHA inspected the site, the Philema Road Bridge in Albany, GA, on July 23 in response to a complaint about conditions there.

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OSHA is alleging a variety of serious lead hazards on a bridge rehab project in Albany, GA.

Atlas Steel is rehabbing the bridge, according to OSHA. No other project information was immediately available.

13 Citations

The 13 serious citations allege a variety of lead-related hazards, including:

  • Failure to monitor or determine lead exposures for employees conducting abrasive blasting lead-based paint inside containment;
  • Insufficient or no respiratory protection for workers who were cleaning up lead-containing abrasive blasting residue and moving the contaminated containment enclosure;
  • Lack of carbon monoxide monitoring for respirators used during abrasive blasting;
  • Lack of a written respiratory protection program;
  • Lack of medical evaluations for bridge painters;
  • Lack of personal protective equipment, including clothing, safety glasses, helmets and gloves, for workers doing abrasive blasting and cleaning up blasting residue;
  • Not providing a change area, separate eating area, showers or washing facilities for employees abrasive blasting lead paint;
  • Not requiring employees who wear their own PPE to remove it before leaving the site;
  • Lack of lead training for abrasive blasters and employees doing lead removal; and
  • Lack of engineering controls and vacuuming in abrasive blasting containment.

Other-than-serious citations allege failure to conduct forklift training and failure to notify workers in writing of their blood lead test results within five days.

Serious violations reflect life-threatening hazards about which the employer knew or should have known.

Taking Lead Home

"This employer not only exposed its workers to unsafe levels of lead but it also failed to take any precautions required to prevent workers from transferring lead contamination to their homes or families," said Robert Vazzi, director of OSHA's Savannah Area Office.

"OSHA holds employers accountable for correcting conditions that threaten worker safety and health."

Privately owned and headquartered in Brooksville, FL, Atlas Coatings provides a range of surface preparation techniques and coatings services for Gulf Coast tank farms, power plants, process plants, petrochemical refineries and transportation agencies.

Note: This post was updated with the company's response at 8:17 a.m. ET Jan. 28, 2015.



Tagged categories: Abrasive blasting; Bridges; Containment; Environmental Control; Health & Safety; Health and safety; Lead paint abatement; North America; OSHA; Painting Contractors; Personal protective equipment; Respirators; Vacuum

Comment from Dag Rune Wiksten, (1/28/2015, 5:20 AM)

Explore dust free coatings removal by means of localized induction heating and avoid or minimize the HSE hazards.

Comment from vasileios kollias, (1/28/2015, 10:05 AM)

and what sspc doing

Comment from Louis Alfieri, (1/28/2015, 10:59 AM)

SSPC has been notified and is going through the normal procedure. In addition, even after OSHA's investigation, we voluntarily shut down and made corrections. At no time did our personnel testing reveal an exposure anywhere near the PEL. Blood tests came back well under the regulated levels as well. This issue was due to a vague and poorly written spec.

Comment from Benny Abbott, (1/28/2015, 12:30 PM)

Not following rules or regulations hurts the painting industry. I am an inspector, but before that I worked my way up from being a pot tender, paint mixer, blaster, painter, leadman, foreman, supervisor, C-3 supervisor, ran my own industrial painting business. The main reason I left the contracting side was due to always having to compete against companies undercutting a job and then the first thing seen was the safety and quality thrown out the window just so a dollar could be made on the job. I know as business owners, it is our responsibility to ensure that we hire the proper workers for the job and that every part of the job is performed as specified. These workers and their families are depending on the employer's to provide a safe working environment after all. I am not talking about one company, but to any and all out there doing the work. In all of my training classes that I teach, I always put an extra emphasis on worker and job safety to everyone in class. Wearing the proper PPE and having the proper training to wear that PPE. Remember, It is EVERYONE'S responsibility for the safety on the job, Union or Non-Union. I truly hope that everyone has a great and safe day.

Comment from Louis Alfieri, (1/28/2015, 1:16 PM)

Even when following rules and regulations, which Atlas has shown countless times seeing that it holds QP1, QP2, and QP3 certifications, things happen. I'm sure there are plenty of you painting contractors out there that have received citations even while working with the best intentions. Atlas has made the proper corrections and has done its due diligence to continue to improve on remaining one of the few painting contractors with 0 recordable incidents to date.

Comment from Billy Russell, (1/29/2015, 4:30 AM)

Zero recordable's is a standard not many are able to maintain that earns you and your company a certain amount of respect, responding as quickly as you have in a public forum tells me a lot , Respect is in order in this case, I have never met you and I am not looking for a job Zero recordables speaks volumes please continue to keep our Brothers Safe and thank you for responding publicly the way you have, a clear example of a company with nothing to hide in my opinion.... respect and support is in order in this case I believe

Comment from Kellie Allen, (1/29/2015, 8:09 AM)

IMO, all of the citations are based on the responses provided by the contractor during the initial investigation. Maybe the Responsible Safety Officer was not available at the audit. It is kind of hard to understand some of those basic safety knowledge violations, but the contractor will have his day to appeal. As to the comment from Benny, welcome to the world of competitive bidding. Government contractors must be the low bidder to win the bid, which is why the SSPC accreditation program is acceptable as a monitoring agency. SSPC has absolutely no way of guaranteeing their approved contractors perform better than contractors who elect not to go through the program. At the end of the day, the contractor who conducts projects at a loss, essentially driving off from the project and leaving the facility owner with a check, will not be in business very long. We always recommend the owner's familiarize themselves with a basic understanding of performance expectations, and utilize the services of best qualified contractors who routinely meet them. It's not possible in public works projects, but it should be the rule of day in private contracting. You will always get what you pay for.

Comment from Scott Verrall, (1/29/2015, 8:21 AM)

" Our tests also concluded that no employees blood lead level came close to the PEL before, during, or after blasting on the project." So the PEL for an employees blood lead level is what?

Comment from Jerade Summers, (1/29/2015, 10:19 AM)

Earlier I put a post that was removed. I guess I worded it wrong. In all my 21 years of doing Lead Abatement I never got my PEL over 50 micrograms per cubic meter in a 8 hour period except one time. And it wasn't the company's fault. That one time I got leaded up in all those years. Was due to a bad compressor. And instead of complaining about not having enough air pressure in my hood I thought I'm only going to be blasting on this job for a week, heck I've blasted for 6 months straight and never got over the limit. A week into the job they decided to give me my pre job lead test. My Blood Lead Level was 34 ug/dl. I also just left a lead job and didn't know what my BLL was when I left that job. All the proper PPE was there for me. All I had to do was call the office and let them know that I needed a lead test when I left the previous job but I was only home a couple of days so I ignored the phone call. Had I told the Foreman or just came out of the containment when I was losing hood hair. I knew what needed to be done. I'm accountable for my negligence. I told the HSE what I neglected to do as a C -5 card holder. They laid me off. Wasn't there fault. What I'm saying is if the accountablity was put more on the employee there would be more Competent Lead Workers. And God bless you poor non union painters with no hazard pay. Oh and congrats on the zero recordables Louis Alfieri! Always good to hear.

Comment from Scott Verrall, (1/29/2015, 11:37 AM)

Jerade, How do you perform lead abatement for over 21 years without being exposed above the PEL for lead? Have you been chemical stripping, water blasting? Please explain your methods so myself and the rest of the people in the company can also never again be exposed above the PEL. I am sure your answer will be a major breakthrough for all of us in the industry.

Comment from Louie Alfieri, (1/29/2015, 1:04 PM)

Gentlemen, My name is Louie Alfieri i am the Director of Operations for Atlas Steel Coatings inc. I certainly appreciate the comments being made regarding the lead issues on our project. i think it may be beneficial to give a little background on the current situation. Atlas Steel Coatings received an RFQ for a blast and paint project in Georgia. The RFQ and the specs called for a QP-1 Contractor to complete the work. There was no mention of QP-2. As everyone on this page knows QP-2 is required for lead abatement. There was also no lead abatement submittal required by the state. Atlas does quite a few DOT project and has never seen a lead job permitted to begin without proper lead plans submitted and approved by the DOT. So Atlas started the project after being convinced that this was not a lead project. We started the project using new workers from the local union hall and were told by the business agent that these men had formal training to be on a QP1 certified project. Six days later, the first worker was a no-show and was therefore terminated. On the eighth day, Atlas had taken TCLP samples of our blast media and it came back hot. Atlas immediately shut the project down and sent the last standing union member to the lab to get his blood work. Atlas then went into a full blown lead abatement program, utilizing blood work, decon trailers, proper PPE, and dispatched Atlas company men, who were fully trained and documented before, during and after this incident. I take full responsibility for the issues at hand. In the future, we will treat all sandblasting jobs as full blown lead abatement, until test results prove otherwise. As for the "low bidding" comment, I don't disagree. However, we were not the low bidder on this project. We were a subcontractor with a stellar safety record of zero incidents and the lowest EMR in the bridge painting business. We do not put profit before safety. I have been painting bridges for 40 years and the OSHA regulations have been written with my brother painter's blood. We are not making excuses, we will take our medicine. However, I find it interesting that the local union member, after getting his blood work, decided to call OSHA and then leave the job. I think it's important not to lose sign of the fact that nobody was hurt and their blood levels all came back within the normal range.

Comment from Paul Mellon, (1/30/2015, 10:52 AM)

Based on the background information by Mr. Alfieri of this contract, it appears that the DOT did not think there was lead in the paint. Perhaps that was correct and the lead came from another source. The above comment states that Atlas “ had taken TCLP samples of our blast media and it came back hot”. So the next question is what type of blast media was being used on the job site. None of the citations mention the type of blast media.

Comment from Kellie Allen, (1/30/2015, 8:24 PM)

Louis I did not say you compromised safety, and your zero prions and emr rate will work in your favor at appeal. The GC was the low bidder and it sounds like you were a victim. It's a good idea to test paint chips but do it post award pre job if the specifier has not done their homework. It's a lesson we can all learn from, not that it makes you feel better. Also, this is a great forum for getting the whole story out within the community. Good for you for using it,

Comment from Jerade Summers, (2/2/2015, 11:54 AM)

To Scott Verrall. I've been exposed just never let my level get above the PEL. 1. Zero smoking on the entire job. 2. Wear Bullard Blast Hood with half mask and hepa filters during blasting. 3. Always run airlines in a safe manner to functionably be able to enter and exit into areas to be blasted with hoods on. With multiple blasters you may need seperate entrances. Make entry and exit area big enough for 2 men at a time with dust collector hose ran to it. What we would like to to see is rotation of the blasters but we all know that slows everything down. Most of all is making sure there is at least 110 lbs of air supplied at each blast hood also keeps the daily PEL's down. IU.S. obvious that this is another incident where a contractor comes in under the notion that they bid the job for no lead. The state should have to take Atlas's bid on the Lead abatement. And as long as they reach all of OSHA'S requirements in my eyes all fines should be dropped since they are a QP 1 QP 2 Contractor

Comment from Scott Verrall, (2/2/2015, 3:20 PM)

To Jerade: I give up, Good Luck to you.

Comment from Chuck Pease, (2/3/2015, 7:19 AM)

Simple question to ask during pre bid phase either at prebid meeting or thru RFI. Has the owner performed a good faith lead survey. If the answer is No. Then you the contractor needs to be sure it is done to protect your rear end. Lesson learned!!! Good job on your safety record, a breath of fresh air in this industry. Well done sir.

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