KS Aircraft Maker Cited for Exposing Employees to Carcinogens

WICHITA, KS ‒ OSHA has cited Spirit Aerosystems Inc. for exposing employees to carcinogen hazards. The company faces penalties of $193,218 for two repeated and four serious violations.

OSHA alleges the company failed to implement feasible engineering controls to limit employee exposure to hexavalent chromium, Cr(VI), a known carcinogen, and conduct periodic monitoring of employee exposure.

OSHA also alleges the company failed to establish protocols to ensure that employees remove contaminated personal protective equipment and clothing before leaving the work area.

OSHA also alleges the company failed to prevent exposure to hexavalent chromium during aircraft painting and allowed the accumulation of hexavalent chromium on surfaces and failed to ensure that employee respirators fit properly.

Chromium compounds are added to paints and primers to provide corrosion protection and to create specific colors.

OSHA Wichita Acting Area Office Director, Ryan Hodge said: “Inhaling excessive levels of hexavalent chromium can cause asthma, and damage to the kidneys, liver, and respiratory system. It is important for employers to take the appropriate steps necessary to prevent excessive exposure.”

It is estimated that 558,000 workers in a variety of occupations are potentially exposed to Cr(VI) in the United States.

Health effects of exposure to Cr(VI), are as follows:

  • Lung cancer and nasal and sinus cancer;
  • Eye, nose and throat irritation;
  • Nasal septum ulcerations and perforations, gastritis, and gastrointestinal ulcers; and
  • Contact dermatitis, irritation, ulcers, and sensitization from skin contact.

Workplace exposures occur mainly in the following areas:

  • Welding and other types of “hot work” on stainless steel and other metals that contain chromium;
  • Use of pigments, spray paints and coatings; and
  • Operating chrome plating baths.

Requirements to protect workers from Cr(VI) exposure are addressed in specific OSHA standards for General Industry, Shipyard Employment, and Construction.