A Pennsylvania-based storage tank manufacturer, Abec, Inc., is now facing citations and a total of $74,000 in fines because workers at its plant in Springfield, Missouri were exposed to potentially deafening noise levels, as well as hazardous levels of hexavalent chromium, based on a recent inspection, which was triggered by a complaint about the plant.
Inspectors with the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) inspectors have issued citations for a total 12 serious safety violations based on what their inspectors uncovered. They found one worker who had been exposed to hexavalent chromium at levels exceeding permissible exposure limits as he was welding and grinding steel that contained chromium metal, which is added to steel to harden it and to resist corrosion.
The OSHA inspectors also cited the company for its failure to implement engineering controls that would serve to monitor and reduce worker exposure levels, as well as for its failure to conduct additional monitoring after the company expanded its production processes in 2006, 2008 and 2014.
This is important, because exposure to hexavalent chromium, especially at high levels, can cause respiratory, eye and skin damage and can eventually lead to lung cancer. Overall, according to OSHA, more than 50,000 workers annually die from exposure to hazardous substances like chromium during their working careers.
In addition to the chemical exposure, the OSHA inspection also discovered three workers who were being exposed to noise levels that were well above acceptable decibel levels for an eight-hour shift, and they also identified and cited the company for violations of respiratory protection standards and for improperly adjusted rests on a grinder, which exposed workers to machinery part hazards.
Abec, which employs about 215 workers at the Missouri plant, has tripled its workforce in recent years. OSHA noted in its report that the rate expansion is not an excuse, and that employers should be continually reviewing their safety processes and procedures and to make sure their facilities are being properly monitored for hazards of all types.