Chateau-sur-MerEmployees of The Preservation Society of Newport County were exposed to lead and potentially fatal falls while scraping and abrasively removing lead-based paint from an outbuilding at the Newport mansion known as Chateau-sur-Mer, reports OSHA.

The agency's Providence Area Office opened inspections on May 8 when two OSHA inspectors observed employees climbing an extension ladder that was set up at an incorrect and unsafe angle.

Historic structures

"The hazards were both immediate and long-term," said Patrick Griffin, OSHA's area director for Rhode Island. "A fall from an improperly used ladder could have disabled or killed workers within seconds. Exposure to lead-based paint without proper safeguards could, over time, contribute to chronic health conditions. The society's care and maintenance of historic structures should not come at a cost to the health and well-being of its workers. It must take effective action to ensure that these hazards don't occur again."

No PPE, hand-washing facilities

OSHA found that The Preservation Society of Newport County did not determine the level of lead exposure for each employee and did not provide interim safeguards, including appropriate respiratory protection; personal protective clothing and equipment; areas to change out of lead-contaminated clothing; hand-washing facilities; biological monitoring; and hazard communication training. In addition, a vacuum cleaner lacked a high-efficiency particulate air filter used to collect lead-contaminated debris. Finally, the employer did not train workers in the proper procedures of working with ladders.

As a result, OSHA has cited The Preservation Society of Newport County for 10 serious violations and proposed $51,840 in fines.

The Preservation Society of Newport County, which maintains and holds in public trust the Newport Mansions, has 15 business days from receipt of its citations and proposed penalties to comply, meet with OSHA's area director, or contest the findings before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.