OSHRC Affirms $383,950 in Penalties from 1993 Lead Exposure Case

A 59-page decision March 23 by the Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission has affirmed $383,590 in penalties against Manganas Painting Co. Inc., a name veteran safety professionals may recognize because the company's legal battle with OSHA has lasted for 14 years. OSHA originally filed $4 million in penalties against this 35-employee Pennsylvania bridge painting contractor, and the new OSHRC decision dealt with just one of five docketed cases stemming from the original four inspections of a bridge repainting and abrasive blasting project Manganas did on the Jeremiah Morrow Bridge in 1993 in Lebanon, Ohio.

The case involves violations of the lead standard for construction, 29 CFR 1926.62, for which Manganas Painting was hit with $1,319,850 in fines; the standard was new when the company was cited, and the bridge work project had been awarded before the standard was issued at the direction of Congress. Manganas fought the case in every possible way, and the citation alleged it had violated the standard across the board -- not removing workers with high blood-lead levels from areas where they would be exposed to high levels of airborne lead dust, not equipping some workers with sufficient respiratory protection, not training as required, not informing workers of their blood test results, and more, according to the description provided in this latest decision.

Ten years ago, Manganas even obtained a subpoena requiring the Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health to testify about the circumstances surrounding the citation's issuance. This, too, came before OSHRC, which revoked the subpoena on the grounds the evidence was available from other witnesses and there was no extraordinary circumstance justifying requiring a senior official of the executive branch to testify about his reasons for taking an official action.

Besides affirming $383,590 in penalties, the March 23 decision establishes that the lead in construction standard's respiratory provisions can be cited by OSHA on a case-by-case basis. In all, OSHRC upheld 31 serious and 22 willful violations by the company.

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