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OSHA: Workers ‘Willfully Exposed’ to Lead

Friday, April 15, 2016

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A Michigan painting company with a history of safety violations faces $121,880 in penalties for allegedly exposing workers to lead on a Pennsylvania worksite while removing paint from water tanks.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration has cited Farmington Hills-based V&T Painting LLC with two willful, 13 serious and six other-than-serious violations at the Danville (PA) Borough Municipal Authority Storage Site.

water tank
© / Scott Cramer

When inspecting a Danville, PA, worksite (not shown), OSHA officals said they found that V&T Painting's workers in an abrasive blasting operation were exposed to lead as they removed paint on water tanks.

The company did not respond to a request for comment Wednesday (April 13) and does not have a website.

"V&T Painting exposed its employees and their families to the unnecessary risk of unsafe lead exposure by not properly protecting them," said Mark Stelmack director of OSHA's Wilkes-Barre Area Office.

"Lead harms the brain, nervous system, blood and kidneys. It is a hazard that must be taken seriously,” he added. “OSHA will not tolerate when employers fail to provide a safe and healthy workplace for workers."

According to OSHA, approximately 838,000 workers in construction are potentially exposed to lead during the removal, renovation or demolition of structures painted with lead pigments., as well as during installation, maintenance or demolition of lead pipes and fittings, lead linings in tanks and radiation protection, leaded glass, work involving soldering, and other work involving lead metal or lead alloys.

Abrasive Blasting on Water Tanks

According to OSHA, the agency began its inspection of the Danville worksite on Oct. 6, 2015, in a proactive enforcement effort aimed at industries, such as construction, with high injury and illness rates.

Inspectors indicated they found that workers in an abrasive blasting operation were exposed to lead as they removed paint on water tanks.

While employees used respirators, the company chose not to use ventilation units it had onsite to reduce the levels of lead inside the tank, OSHA claimed. Inspectors also found the company exposed employees to lead when it failed to follow proper decontamination procedures that required a vacuum and showers onsite for employees to use as they exited the tank, the agency alleged.

OSHA cited the company for these hazards as well as for scaffold deficiencies and a lack of fall protection.

The willful violation for not ensuring employees were not exposed to lead at concentrations greater than 50 micrograms per cubic meter of air averaged over an 8-hour period carries a fine of $46,200.

The willful violation for not providing shower facilities, where feasible, for use by employees whose airborne exposure to lead was above the permissible exposure limit also carries a penalty of $46,200.

The serious citations carry fines ranging from $1,760 to $3,080 each, totaling $20,240 in penalties. The company was not fined for the other-than-serious violations.

water tower
© / mcdc

V&T Painting was previously fined by OSHA for lack of fall protection on two water tower projects (not shown).

The employer has 15 business days from receipt of the citation and proposed penalty to comply, request an informal conference with OSHA's area director, or contest the findings before the Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.

Past Incident History

As previously reported, V&T Painting was also the subject of an OSHA investigation when two painters, reportedly not wearing harnesses, fell when their scaffolding failed on an Oxford, OH, water tower project in October 2014.

The painting contractor received 30 federal citations and $199,000 in fines following the accident. As reported earlier, 17 serious safety violations were cited at the accident site in Oxford, and a second set of 13 violations were issued for alleged hazards at a second site in Hamilton, OH, where V&T was painting another tower. The Hamilton inspection was conducted after the Oxford accident.

The OSHA citations issued for the accident site carried $114,000 in fines, and the other water-tower painting site drew fines totaling $85,000.

At the time, Ken Montgomery, OSHA's area director in Cincinnati, stated, "Making sure protective equipment is in use and working properly is a common-sense way to save lives and prevent injuries."

"Companies that put their workers dangerously high above the ground must provide protection to stop their falls,” he added. “We are seeing a disturbing trend in deaths and injuries among workers on communications and other types of towers that could have been prevented."


Tagged categories: Abrasive blasting; Citations; Fall protection; Health & Safety; Lead; North America; OSHA; Painting Contractors; Respirators; Violations; Water Tanks

Comment from M. Halliwell, (4/15/2016, 10:48 AM)

Over $500,000 in fines (and you can bet the $85,000 in fines wasn't their first run in with OSHA either)and they "keep on keeping on". Companies like V&T are part of the reason my firm pre-qualifies all sub-contractors now based on their safety record and practices and why sites like ISNetWorld exist. V&T, get your act together!

Comment from Chuck Pease, (4/23/2016, 1:54 PM)

While pre qual based on safety performance is noble and right. In my experience this doesn't always work when low bid dollars are the operative. As evidenced by the Excel Energy Cabin Creek fire that took 5 painters lives in 1 incident. They contracted with a firm that had a miserable safety track record due to them being the lowest bidder in spite of their record.

Comment from M. Halliwell, (4/26/2016, 10:51 AM)

I agree Chuck...the all-mighty dollar seems to be the only thing that matters for some people and it's killing people all over. Thankfully, where I am, safety pre-quals are becoming more and more common. We're also seeing some different bid evaluation methods being used (i.e. throw out highest and lowest, then selecting the one closest to the average....finding an average of the bids then eliminating those outside a certain percentage from the mean, then evaluating the remaining). Not perfect, but a step in the right direction, perhaps, assuming the client can see the value beyond the up-front bottom line.

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