OSHA Blasts Chicago Sandblasting Firm for Inadequate PPE, Lead Exposure, More

OSHA has cited ERA Valdivia Contractors Inc., an industrial painting and sandblasting company in Chicago, with $130,300 in proposed penalties for exposing workers to dangerous lead materials.

Based on a November 2009 inspection, OSHA has cited the company with two willful violations and a proposed $112,000 penalty for failing to provide adequate personal protective equipment to employees working in and around lead while performing abrasive blasting and painting. A willful violation is one committed with intentional, knowing, or voluntary disregard for the law's requirement, or plain indifference to employee safety and health.

The employer also has been cited with eight serious citations and a proposed $18,300 penalty. Some of these citations address the company's alleged failure to ensure workers use respirators in accordance with the conditions of certification; to prohibit the use of respirators by employees with facial hair; and to provide a clean changing area for employees. An OSHA violation is serious if death or serious physical harm can result from a hazard an employer knew or should have known exists.

"Employers must ensure any employee working in and around lead, especially when he or she is abrasive blasting, should be protected from overexposure to this dangerous material," said OSHA Area Director Diane Turek in Des Plaines, Ill. "Those who ignore these health regulations are inviting tragedy into the lives of their workers."

ERA Valdivia has been inspected by OSHA 25 times since 1991 and has been issued numerous willful, serious, and repeat violations, including many lead violations. The company employs approximately 75 workers.

The company has 15 business days from receipt of its citations and penalties to comply, request an informal conference with OSHA's area director, or contest the findings before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.

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