Bridge, Tower Painter Fined for Exposing Workers to Lead

OSHA has cited bridge and water tower painter UCL Inc. in Cincinnati with alleged willful, egregious, and serious violations of federal workplace safety and health standards for exposing workers to lead. Proposed fines total $321,000.

OSHA began its inspection in May where UCL was abrasive blasting paint from two bridge overpasses on I-75 near Middletown, Ohio. The inspection revealed nine alleged willful and two serious violations.

Hazards identified as willful allege a variety of violations of the federal lead in construction standard, including a lack of appropriate respirators and protective clothing, failing to maintain eating areas free of lead contamination, and failing to remove lead dust from equipment before workers entered designated eating areas. OSHA defines a willful violation as one committed with plain indifference to or intentional disregard for employee safety and health.

Four of the willful violations, relating to the employer's failure to provide clean protective clothing to workers on a daily basis, are also classified as egregious. By designating violations as egregious, OSHA can assess penalties for each time the violation occurs, rather than proposing a single penalty for all violations of a specific agency regulation.

The two serious violations address an inadequate lead compliance program and failing to provide adequate hand washing facilities for employees. A serious citation is issued when there is substantial probability that death or serious physical harm could result from a hazard about which the employer knew or should have known.

"Few Americans are aware of lead's deadly effects or the fact that lead taken home on clothing and work tools can infect an entire family," said Richard Gilgrist OSHA area director in Cincinnati. "The cost of employee and family health is far too great a price to pay for anyone to ignore this hazard. All of us want to see working men and women go home safe and without carrying toxic substances into their homes at the end of every work shift."

While UCL has been in business since 1999, the company owner previously owned United Painting Co., a business that was cited repeatedly by OSHA for lead standard violations. UCL also has received numerous citations, many of which were for violations of federal lead standards. An Aug. 27 fatal accident at another bridge painting worksite of UCL, along the same I-75 construction corridor, is still under investigation.

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