The U.S. Occupational Safety & Health Administration not long ago released a report indicating that welders are at serious risk of an on-the-job injury.
Burns were among the most common injuries, though fume damage to lungs, UV light damage to eyes and noise damage to ears also occurred with frightening frequency.
The fact that we are well aware of the kinds of welding-related injuries to North Carolina workers make it all the more upsetting when employers fail to make safety a top priority. Yet that’s reportedly the case at a large welding firm in Connecticut, where federal OSHA officials have fined the company nearly $170,000 for violating a host of workplace safety regulations.
What’s worse, company leaders reportedly already knew about the on-site dangers to which workers were potentially exposed because OSHA inspectors had warned them to correct the problems. That was back in August 2012.
A follow-up inspection more than a year later revealed the same dangers persisted.
In fact, the inspectors reported that there was no evidence that the employer had made any effort to safeguard workers from what they defined as eight “serious hazards.”
Among the hazards identified:
- Failure to provide welding screens near welding stations;
- Failure to maintain acceptable extinguishing equipment in ready condition during welding work;
- Failure to install safety guards on the company’s machinery;
- Blocked access to electrical panels.
These kinds of violations put welding workers in jeopardy of suffering burns, falls and cuts, officials reported.
Mind you, a serious violation is one that has the potential to result in death or severe physical harm and about which the employer knew or had a duty to know.
While it’s difficult to imagine such blatant disregard for employee safety, perhaps it’s not completely unsurprising given that the company owner was recently arrested for failure to pay some three dozen workers an estimated $110,000 in wages over the last two years.
The fine that OSHA is proposing is substantial, and we do hope that it will prompt the employer to make the necessary changes, as well as to motivate other welding firms to do the same. If they don’t, their workers may be at substantial risk of the following:
- Fire and burns. The heat necessary for welding projects is intense, and the risk of burns are high. Even spatter and sparks can cause second- and third-degree burns. It can also ignite nearby materials – which is what makes having a fire extinguisher nearby such a critical safety requirement.
- Electrocution or shock. There have been numerous cases in which apprentice rod welders have confused the ground connection for the work lead, resulting in electric shock.
- Arc radiation and welder’s flash. This is when the ultraviolet light that is produced from the arc ray exposes a welder’s skin and eyes to severe burns. Wearing proper protective gear can usually prevent these kinds of injuries.
- Manganism. This is also sometimes referred to as “welders’ Parkinson’s Disease.” It stems from exposure to manganese, an element found in welding rods, wire and electrodes. It has the potential to cause nerve damage and destroy brain cells.
These are all incidents that are preventable. An employer’s failure to implement even the basic standards of precaution is plain and simple negligence.
If you have been injured at work, contact the Lee Law Offices at 800-887-1965.
Hartford welding firm hit with OSHA fines, Dec. 16, 2013, By Luther Turmelle, New Haven R ster
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