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Wisconsin workers exposed to crystalline silica

November 29, 2011
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lungsOSHA inspectors didn't have to use a GPS to find Northern Steel Casting, Inc. in Wisconsin Rapids, Wisconsin: the company had already been inspected 24 times by agency personnel.

As on six previous occasions, the lastest inspection of the company's carbon steel foundry resulted in citations related to overexposing workers to crystalline silica, a known respiratory hazard. Fines for that and other violations total $95,480.

The inspection and citationscame after OSHA received 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 can be created that are respirable. Breathing crystalline silica dust can cause silicosis, an incurable condition that reduces the ability of lungs to take in oxygen.

Northern Steel Castings also was cited for two repeat health violations for allowing workers to be overexposed to iron oxide and copper fumes in the foundry, and for exposing employees to fire hazards when welding inside plywood booths.

Additionally, three serious health violations were cited 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.

Northern Steel Castings had been inspected by OSHA two dozen times prior to this latest inspection and was cited for overexposure to silica six other times.

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