Shipyard Operator Facing $1.4m Fines in Lead Exposure Case

SUPERIOR, WI – OSHA has proposed almost $1.4 million in penalties for a Wisconsin shipyard operator for 14 willful, egregious health violations – one for each instance of overexposing a worker to lead.

According to an OSHA blog, the workers had been torching, cutting and removing material known to be contaminated with lead paint.

Overexposure to lead is associated with brain damage, gastrointestinal complications, anemia and kidney disease.  Lead paint was commonly used until the mid-1970s.

The company was retrofitting the engine room of a Great Lakes iron ore vessel built in 1959 and had discussed lead abatement with the ship’s owner prior to starting the $10 million retrofitting project in December 2015.

According to the report, one worker’s test sampling showed lead exposure up to 20 times the permissible exposure limit. Others were 13 and 14 times the limit. Fraser Shipyards subsequently conducted blood lead level testing of more than 120 employees. The results 75 percent of those tested  had elevated blood lead levels.

OSHA also issued five additional willful violations for failing to implement engineering controls, work practices, a respiratory protection program, and to conduct training related to lead hazards. Other hazards were found, as well.

According to OSHA, in exposing its workers to lead, “Fraser Shipyards ignored federal regulations, its own corporate safety manuals, and worker concerns. When companies prioritize deadlines and dollars over the health and safety of their workforce, too often it is the worker that pays the price. OSHA is committed to changing that mindset and ensuring employers own up to their legal responsibility to keep workers safe on the job.”