Safety Report: Foundry Faces Fines

Wednesday, November 30, 2011 @ 09:11 AM gHale

Northern Steel Castings Inc. is facing $95,480 in fines for two safety and four health violations at its Wisconsin Rapids carbon steel foundry for overexposing workers to crystalline silica, a known respiratory hazard, said Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) officials.

“Exposing workers to a known hazardous substance, such as crystalline silica, beyond OSHA’s permissible exposure limit is unacceptable,” said Kim Stille, OSHA’s area director in Madison, WI. “Employers have a responsibility to monitor workers’ exposure to known hazards in their industries, and to ensure that work environments are healthful and safe.”

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OSHA initiated the inspection after receiving a complaint alleging overexposure to crystalline silica, a basic component of soil, sand, granite and other minerals.

When workers chip, cut, drill or grind objects that contain silica, small particles become airborne and workers can breathe them in. Breathing crystalline silica dust can cause silicosis, an incurable condition that reduces the ability of lungs to take in oxygen.

OSHA’s inspection confirmed workers suffered overexposure to crystalline silica and issued one willful safety violation. A willful violation is one committed with intentional, knowing or voluntary disregard for the law’s requirement, or plain indifference to employee safety and health.

Northern Steel Castings also received two repeat health violations for allowing workers to suffer from overexposure to iron oxide and copper fumes in the foundry, and for exposing employees to fire hazards when welding inside plywood booths. A repeat violation exists when OSHA cited an employer previously for the same or a similar violation of a standard, regulation, rule or order at any other facility in federal enforcement states within the last five years. OSHA cited the company cited for these violations in 2006.

Additionally, the company received three serious health violations for failing to keep eating surfaces free from contamination by hexavalent chromium; failing to provide ventilation when welding, and for failing to provide adequate emergency exits. 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.

Northern Steel Castings had been inspected by OSHA 24 times prior to this inspection and they earned citations for overexposure to silica six other times.

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