Wisconsin Shipyard Faces $1.4 Million in Penalties for Exposing Workers to Lead Hazards

Workers were exposed to lead at levels up to 20 times the permissible exposure limit, according to OSHA.

An OSHA investigation found that Fraser Shipyards Inc. exposed workers to 20 times the lead exposure limit while working on retrofitting a ship's engine room, according to the agency, which cited the company for 14 willful egregious health violations for each instance of overexposing a worker to lead. The citations amount to $1,395,000 in penalties. Five additional willful violations were given for failing to conduct monitoring to assess employee exposure to lead, failing to implement a lead compliance program or a respiratory protection program for lead, and failing to provide training on lead and asbestos hazards.

OSHA also placed Fraser Shipyards in its Severe Violator Enforcement Program.

Interlake Steamship Company initially contracted Fraser to modernize a ship under a $10 million contract. OSHA opened the investigation after receiving complaints of unsafe working conditions.

"Fraser Shipyards accepted a contract with a very low profit margin and penalties for delayed completion, but could not meet the schedule without endangering its workers. This employer was unwilling to pay the necessary costs to protect employees from lead exposure," said Dr. David Michaels, assistant secretary of labor for Occupational Safety and Health. "When companies prioritize profits and deadlines over the health and safety of their workforce, it is the workers who pay the price. Law-breaking employers must be held accountable for their unlawful behavior."

Fraser management knew of the presence of lead and asbestos, according to OSHA. "Fraser ignored federal regulations, its own corporate safety manuals and worker concerns," said Ken Atha, OSHA's regional administrator in Chicago. "Such behavior is unacceptable. No worker should be put at risk from exposure to hazards that can cause permanent health issues to meet a contract deadline."

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