Toxic Hazards at Steel Tank Maker

Friday, May 22, 2015 @ 04:05 PM gHale

Workers welding stainless steel and other alloy steels containing chromium metal at Imperial Industries in Rothschild, WI, a bulk storage tank manufacturer, suffered exposure to hazardous levels of hexavalent chromium and the company is now facing fines of $161,100, said officials at the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).

At high levels, hexavalent chromium can cause lung cancer and respiratory, eye and skin damage. Imperial Industries manufactures heavy gauge metal industrial tanks typically mounted to commercial trucks.

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After a complaint, OSHA inspectors visited Imperial Industries and identified two willful and 12 serious safety violations.

“Each year 50,000 workers die from exposures to hazardous substances like chromium during their careers. Failing to take steps to limit exposure to this dangerous substance is inexcusable,” said Robert Bonack, area director of OSHA’s Appleton office. “Workers pay the price when companies don’t follow standards to reduce injuries and illnesses. Imperial Industries needs to take immediate steps to comply with safety and health standards.”

Inspectors determined employees ended up exposed to hexavalent chromium at levels exceeding permissible exposure limits while welding steels containing chromium metal. Chromium ends up added in to harden alloy steel and help it resist corrosion. Additionally, the company failed to implement engineering controls to reduce and monitor exposure levels among workers.

The November 2014 investigation also found workers endangered by amputation and struck-by hazards because machines lacked safety mechanisms. There were numerous electrical safety hazards also identified, and workers were operating damaged powered industrial vehicles.

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