A foundry, its owner and three members of its safety consultant company have been found in criminal contempt by U.S. District Judge Beth Phillips after disobeying a court order to allow federal inspectors to investigate a report of an employee at the foundry with an elevated blood lead.

Martin Foundry Co. Inc., owner Darrell Stone and representatives of Compliance Professionals Inc., all based in Kansas City, admitted they disobeyed an administrative search warrant issued by Magistrate Judge John T. Maughmer on April 6 to cooperate with an OSHA inspection.

The U.S. District Court in Kansas City has ordered the defendants to jointly pay $10,778 to reimburse departmental costs. Martin Foundry and Stone are also each liable for $1,000 in fines for their failure to cooperate. The three third-party consultants will each pay fines of $2,000, based on a finding that they willfully impeded OSHA's investigation and refused to comply with the warrant.

"We are pleased that the courts put the workers' welfare first by enforcing the warrant requiring the employer to allow OSHA to inspect the foundry," said Marcia Drumm, OSHA's regional administrator in Kansas City. "Martin Foundry's refusal to allow a comprehensive health inspection led OSHA to seek court intervention to ensure its workers are safe."

OSHA investigators attempted to inspect the foundry March 27, after the Missouri Department of Health reported that an employee had an elevated blood lead level. Stone refused to allow inspectors into the foundry, leading agency officials to obtain a warrant and return April 7 to complete the inspection. At that time, Stone and representatives from Compliance Professionals again refused entry in violation of the warrant. Inspectors returned later that day with U.S. Marshals. Martin Foundry and Compliance Professionals persisted in obstructing OSHA's investigators after the U.S. Marshals left the workplace. OSHA was only able to complete the inspection after U.S. Departments of Labor and Justice attorneys initiated contempt proceedings.

Exposure to high levels of lead may cause anemia, weakness, and kidney and brain damage. Each year more than 50,000 American workers die from occupational exposure to lead, asbestos and other substances.