Employees of Chicago-based Era Valdivia Contractors, Inc were exposed to dangerous lead hazards while sandblasting the steel structure of the Francisco Avenue Bridge on Blue Island in Chicago last summer. The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) found that the employees weren’t wearing personal protective equipment. This lead to OSHA citing the company with four willful, one serious, and two repeated safety violations. Era Valdivia has been cited 13 previous times for violating the lead construction standards.
The four willful violations included failing to provide personal protective clothing, clean changing areas, and hygiene facilities, such as showers and hand-washing facilities, to prevent lead from traveling outside of the workplace environment. A willful violation is one committed with intentional, knowing, or voluntary disregard for the law, or with plain indifference to employee health and safety.
Era Valdivia also failed to provide a written notice to an individual employee who was overexposed to lead, to provide an on-site lead compliance program, and to post lead warning signs in work areas.
The danger of lead exposure is that employees who come in contact with it can bring the toxic metal home on their clothes, shoes, skin, hair, and hands with the potential to poison children and other family members. “Take-home lead” is considered by medical professionals to be especially dangerous for pregnant women and preschoolers. Lead exposure has been known to cause long-term damage to the central nervous, immune, blood, reproductive, and urinary systems. What makes it so dangerous is that lead accumulates in the body with no way to reverse the harmful effects.
OSHA estimates that approximately 804,000 workers in the general industry and an additional 838,000 workers in construction are potentially exposed to lead on a regular basis.
As a company specializing in Environmental Health and Safety software solutions, Quantum Compliance has been helping chemical manufacturers, transporters, and users convert their Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDSs) to GHS-compliant Safety Data Sheets (SDSs). However, SDS conversion is only a small step for companies trying to become compliant before the June 1, 2015 deadline. SDSs and labels only provide knowledge of the hazardous chemicals, how best to handle them, and how to respond after exposure. Businesses need to take their safety precautions a step further and also ensure that proper equipment, posted signs, and trainings are provided to all employees who come in contact with toxins that may fatally harm workers.