Under both federal and state law, all employers, in Texas and elsewhere are required to maintain a safe and healthy workplace for all workers, regardless of the business they are in and regardless of the job a employee does. Despite the legal requirements, however, many employers still cut corners and put workers lives at risk.
Today, the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) cited a Houston-based company, CS Metals, for five willful, nine serious and two repeated safety violations for exposing its workers to levels of lead, arsenic and other heavy metals that are considered well above safe levels at a scrap metal yard in St. Mary’s, Ohio. The company operates a number of facilities in Texas, Indiana and Ohio.
The OSHA investigations were triggered when the agency received a complaint about allegedly unsafe work conditions at the plant. One investigation was conducted in June, with two other follow-up investigations following. What they found was that CS Metals failed to provide workers with the proper personal protective equipment and they also failed to monitor workers’ exposures to levels of metal dust, which can cause serious long-term injuries to vital organs and the central nervous system. They also cited the company for their failure to have a compliance program in place for exposure to air contaminants, such as lead and arsenic.
OSHA also found that workers who had been exposed to airborne lead and arsenic while torching steel were not required to shower after their shift and that the company did not ensure that work clothing that had been contaminated with lead and arsenic was placed into a closed container in the changing room. Those discoveries and other led to a willful violation because workers were overexposed to lead.
Willful violations are those considered by OSHA to have been committed with intentional, knowing or voluntary disregard for requirements or indifference to employee safety and health. The two willful violations alone could cost the company as much as $308,000.
In addition to the violations and fines, the company was also placed into OSHA’s Severe Violator Enforcement Program (SVEP) because of the repeat violations. A company that is placed on this list is subject to a greater number of follow-up and related inspections, as well as other provisions that are included in a settlement agreement. That will not just apply in Ohio, but to the company’s facilities in Texas, as well.
CS Metals was also cited for serious violations, including one for providing a worker with a respirator that was missing an inhalation valve for two days, and another for not implementing a written arsenic housekeeping plan that detailed cleaning frequency of surfaces and floors in the change rooms, showers, lunchrooms and lavatory; and yet another for not implementing an arsenic medical surveillance program.
The repeat violations that led to their inclusion in the SVEP came about because washing facilities had not been maintained in a sanitary condition, and all surfaces in the changing area had an accumulation of lead and iron oxide dust.
OSHA and Texas officials should be providing more oversight when it comes to finding so many violations of workers’ rights to a safe workplace. However, a lack of oversight doesn’t mean employers still don’t have a responsibility to keep workers safe. If you or a loved one has been injured or killed on the job due to a serious workplace hazard, please contact the Texas Worksite Injury Lawyers at Hill Law Firm right away, so that we can conduct a thorough investigation of the situation and protect your rights under the law.