OSHA has issued citations to E.N. Range Inc. in Miami, Fla., alleging the company knowingly neglected to protect employees who clean gun ranges from serious overexposure to lead. It also provided, without medical supervision, non-FDA-approved treatments for lead exposure. The company was cited for more than 50 violations of the lead standard and others, with total proposed penalties of $2,099,600.
"This company was well aware of what it needed to do to protect its workers from a well known hazard. It not only failed to provide that protection, it misled employees - most of whom had limited knowledge of English - into believing that it was providing them with appropriate medical treatment," said Secretary of Labor Hilda L. Solis. "Such a blatant disregard for the health of workers will not be tolerated under this administration."
E.N. Range has been cited for 42 willful and serious violations of the lead standard with proposed penalties of $1,884,000. OSHA's lead standard requires employers to protect their workers from lead exposure which can cause many serious health issues including brain damage, paralysis, kidney disease, and even death.
OSHA's lead standard also addresses the use of chelating agents, which are medicines intended to reduce blood levels that can have significant adverse side effects. The standard prohibits the use of these agents prophylactically, and permits their therapeutic use only under the supervision of a physician in an appropriate clinical setting. Willful citations were issued alleging that E.N. Range violated this provision by giving its workers non-FDA-approved chelating agents without medical supervision.
"This is an egregious situation where the employer deliberately refused to provide the necessary protections to keep workers safe from overexposure to lead," said Assistant Secretary of Labor for OSHA Dr. David Michaels. "The company even knew its workers suffered from lead poisoning, yet avoided proper medical attention in favor of providing an unapproved and potentially unsafe treatment."
The citations allege that E.N. Range did not use engineering controls to prevent overexposure to lead, perform air sampling to determine the extent of its workers' exposure, provide showers for workers who had been exposed to lead, or provide blood testing to exposed workers every six months, all of which are required by the lead standard.
The company was also found in violation of the respiratory protection standard for failing to provide medical evaluations and fit testing for respirators. Additionally, the company is being cited for failing to abate a previously-cited violation discovered during an inspection in February 2009. That failure-to-abate notice charges that the employer had neglected to implement a job rotation schedule to reduce lead exposures. The company is also being cited for additional serious violations, including a spliced electrical cable and failure to ensure the blades of a box fan were adequately guarded.
A willful violation is one committed with plain indifference to or intentional disregard for employees' safety and health. A serious citation is issued 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. Two other-than-serious violations have been issued with no penalty for failing to label bags used to dispose of contaminated clothing.