Tenneco Automotive Operating Company's manufacturing facility located in neighboring Georgia has been cited by the U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) for 20 health and safety violations. Many of the violations involve hexavalent chromium exposure. The proposed monetary penalty is $90,000.
Our North Carolina workers' compensation lawyers in Greensboro know that exposure to hexavalent chromium can cause damage to the lungs, nose and throat and have lifelong effects on a worker's quality of life.
Hexavalent chromium is a metallic form of chromium that is a naturally occurring element found in various objects like soil, plants, rocks, volcanic dust and gases. There are many industrial applications that use hexavalent chromium including leather processing, welding stainless steel, arc welding, painting, electroplating, grinding stainless steel, textile dying, wood preservation and chrome finishing.
A spokesperson for OSHA commented that violations regarding hexavalent chromium exposure are inexcusable due to the abundance of information available to employers.
In May 2010, OSHA started enforcing new standards for hexavalent chromium, which require engineering controls for anyone working with hexavalent chromium. The most important change in the new standard involves workers' exposure limit. The old standard had an exposure limit of 52 micrograms per cubic meter on an 8-hour time-weighted average. The new standard has an exposure limit (PEL) of 5 micrograms per cubic meter. It is vital to limit employee exposure limits because hexavalent chromium is a known carcinogen when inhaled.
Safety equipment needed to protect workers from hexavalent chromium can include respirators, fume extractors, goggles and safety clothing. It is recommended that employers have a separate area for employees to store and change their protective clothing and provide them access to a clean air supply before leaving the workplace
Seventeen serious violations were cited. Serious violations are defined as those with a significant probability that a worker could die or become seriously ill or injured from the hazard that the employer knew or should have been aware. Seven of these violations involved hexavalent chromium including:
-Failing to avoid exposure above OSHA's allowed exposure limits.
-Not having a plan on how to limit exposure time.
-Not giving workers a separate storage/changing area for personal protective equipment.
-Failing to discuss with a doctor about chromium exposures.
-Not having an eyewash area.
-Not providing clean work area surfaces free from chromium particles.
-Not providing sealed containers for disposal of waste.
The other serious violations involved entering confined spaces, lockout/tag-out procedures and lack of safety guards and covers on machines and electric panels.
Violations that resulted in no financial penalty included a lack of confined space training, improper mounting of switch boxes and outlets, and a blocked electrical disconnect.
For more information on hexavalent chromium , visit OSHA's website.
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