Rhode Island, Massachusetts companies cited for serious violations

A Rhode Island firm was cited by OSHA for exposing its workers to lead and potentially dangerous falls while scraping and abrasively removing lead-based paint from an outbuilding

OSHA opened inspections on May 8 when two OSHA inspectors observed employees climbing an extension ladder that was set up at an incorrect and unsafe angle.

An OSHA official stated that "The hazards were both immediate and long-term. A fall from an improperly used ladder could have disabled or killed workers within seconds. Exposure to lead-based paint without proper safeguards could, over time, contribute to chronic health conditions. The society's care and maintenance of historic structures should not come at a cost to the health and well-being of its workers. It must take effective action to ensure that these hazards don't occur again."

OSHA found that the company did not determine the level of lead exposure for each employee and did not provide interim safeguards, including appropriate respiratory protection; personal protective clothing and equipment; areas to change out of lead-contaminated clothing; hand-washing facilities; biological monitoring; and hazard communication training. In addition, a vacuum cleaner lacked a high-efficiency particulate air filter used to collect lead-contaminated debris. Finally, the employer did not train workers in the proper procedures of working with ladders.

As a result, the firm was cited for 10 serious violations and proposed $51,840 in fines. A serious violation occurs when there is substantial probability that death or serious physical harm could result from a hazard about which the employer knew or should have known.

Employees at a Massachusetts company were exposed to possible electrocution from working close to energized power lines at a work site where required safeguards were not used. The OSHA inspection found that employees used a trench rod and a fiberglass pole with a metal end to lift overhead power lines, so that workers could move excavating equipment under the lines and onto the work site. The company faces $70,290 in proposed fines

The OSHA area director pointed out that "This employer knew the overhead power lines were dangerous, but did not take steps to protect workers or shield them from contact and electrocution. Electricity is swift and deadly. While it is fortunate no one was injured or killed in this case, the hazard of death or disabling burns was real and present."

OSHA had previously cited the company in 2011 for a similar hazard. Based on the employer's knowledge of the hazard, OSHA has cited the firm for a willful violation with $69,300 in proposed fines. A willful violation is one committed with intentional, knowing or voluntary disregard for the law's requirements, or with plain indifference to worker safety and health.

Another violation, with a $990 fine, was cited for improper labeling of a trench box.