Nighttime Inspection Spotlights Silica Hazards, Respiratory Violations

OSHA has proposed a total of $38,100 in fines against Sealcoating Inc. of Hingham, Mass., chiefly for silica-related hazards identified during restoration work on bridge M-12-28 on the southbound side of I-93 in Melrose, Mass.

The contractor was cited for 11 alleged repeat and serious violations of workplace health and safety standards following a nighttime inspection conducted in July as part of OSHA's Boston North Area Office's efforts to target inspections to construction worksites--such as road resurfacing and bridge repair--where silica is generated.

"Employers should not assume that OSHA will not conduct inspections because much of this work is done at night," said Paul Mangiafico, OSHA's area director for Middlesex and Essex counties. "We will conduct inspections where and when we must to ensure that employers implement and maintain effective controls to minimize this hazard to their workers."

Crystalline silica, a basic component of soil, sand, granite, and many other minerals, can be inhaled when workers chip, cut, drill, or grind objects that contain the substance. It has been classified as a human lung carcinogen, and breathing crystalline silica dust can cause silicosis, a disabling or even fatal lung condition.

OSHA found employees at the jobsite exposed to excess silica levels while jack hammering concrete, no controls to lower exposure levels, failure to evaluate employees' exposure levels, an inadequate respiratory protection program and training, and no fit-testing of respirators. These conditions resulted in the issuance of seven serious citations, with $20,100 in proposed fines. Serious citations are issued when death or serious physical harm is likely to result from hazards about which the employer knew or should have known.

In addition, four repeat citations, with $18,000 in fines, were issued for conditions similar to those cited by OSHA following an April 2009 inspection of a Sealcoating jobsite in Springfield, Mass. These include lack of a site-specific respiratory protection program, employees wearing respirators without having first obtained medical clearance, ineffective hazard communication training, and lack of an effective hearing conservation program.

Sealcoating has 15 business days from receipt of its citations and proposed penalties to comply, meet with OSHA, or contest the finding before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission. Detailed information on silica hazards and safeguards is available online at www.osha.gov/SLTC/silicacrystalline/index.html.

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