OSHA Alleges U.S. Navy Employees Exposed to Hazardous Materials

After employees allegedly were exposed to dangerous chemicals, including lead, OSHA has notified the Navy about 21 serious violations.

Hundreds of employees in a California aircraft maintenance hanger were exposed to toxic materials such as lead, cadmium, and beryllium, OSHA said as it announced the results of three inspections conducted in 2011. The contamination of Fleet Readiness Center Southwest's Coronado maintenance facility in San Diego, Calif. resulted in 21 serious violations overall and two alleged willful violations. OSHA inspectors discovered areas where the 500 employees ate and stored personal belongings had also been contaminated with the chemicals. Employees filed complaints to OSHA, resulting in the inspections, according to the agency's news release.

"Two alleged willful violations involve allowing workers to store and consume food and beverages in areas contaminated by toxic materials such as lead, cadmium and beryllium," the release states.

Fleet Readiness Center Southest has a workforce of about 10,000 employees worldwide.

Federal agencies must comply with the same health and safety standards as private-sector employers. According to the release, the federal agency equivalent of a private-sector citation is a notice of an unhealthful or unsafe working condition, but OSHA cannot propose monetary penalties against another federal agency for failure to comply with its standards.

"Exposing workers to metals such as lead, cadmium, and beryllium can result in serious illness and even fatal respiratory disease," said Jay Vicory, director of OSHA's San Diego Area Office. "We are encouraged by the Department of the Navy's response to OSHA's intervention, and we are working cooperatively with that department to further mitigate the hazards uncovered."

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