Tank Maker Faces Repeat Safety Fine

Friday, April 22, 2016 @ 05:04 PM gHale

Six months after citing a global equipment provider to the biopharma industry for exposing workers to hazardous levels of hexavalent chromium and potentially deafening noise as they welded and grinded stainless steel and other alloy steels, investigators found the company failed to take steps to protect its workers at its Springfield, MO, facility.

Abec Inc. is now facing $95,000 in fines for two repeated and four serious safety violations after its January follow-up inspection, said officials at the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).

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OSHA cited the Pennsylvania-based engineering and equipment manufacturer for the same hazards this past July. At unsafe levels, hexavalent chromium can cause lung cancer and respiratory, eye and skin damage.

Based in Bethlehem, PA, Abec provides engineering, equipment and other services to the biopharmaceutical manufacturing industry. In addition to its Missouri and Pennsylvania facilities, the company also operates in Ireland and China.

“Abec’s failure to address serious workplace hazards endangers the safety and well-being of its workers. There is no excuse for finding identical hazards in a follow-up inspection,” said Barbara Theroit, OSHA’s area director in Kansas City. “The company must monitor a worker’s exposure to chromium which often occurs during ‘hot work’ such as welding on stainless steel and other alloys. Abec has to fix its safety and health program immediately.”

OSHA’s follow-up inspection found the company failed to:
• Train employees to understand the hazards of chromium (VI) compounds
• Monitor employees’ exposure levels to chromium quarterly as required
• Provide employees with testing including baseline audiograms to monitor potential hearing loss
• Comply with respiratory protection standards, including failing to have workers medically evaluated for respiratory wear
• Prevent chromium (VI) dust from accumulating on surface areas

Inspectors found the facility, which makes food-grade stainless steel tanks for biopharmaceutical manufacturers, failed to reduce and monitor exposure levels among workers, and failed to conduct additional monitoring after expanding the production process in 2006, 2008 and 2014.

Since 2013, the company expanded its workforce from 68 to 280 but failed to expand its training and monitoring programs for employee safety and health.

In addition to “hot work,” dyes, paints, inks and plastics can contain chromium (VI) compounds. Paints, primers and other surface coatings also use the compounds as an anti-corrosive agent.

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