Employees Needlessly Sickened When Employer Exposes Them to Mercury Poisoning

OSHA has fined Environmental Remediation Services a total of $142,200 for violations.

OSHA has determined that a hazardous materials remediation contractor exposed employees to mercury poisoning and did not provide the proper safeguards while at the General Electric Co. Power and Water Main Plant State Superfund site in Schenectady, N.Y. After employees complained about mercury exposure, an investigation found that several employees inhaled or absorbed excessive levels of mercury vapor or liquid mercury through their skin while removing the substance from the third and fourth floors of the plant.

"Environmental Remediation Services Inc. did not control the mercury exposures. They failed to implement measures such as ventilation, protective equipment or reorganizing work to reduce employees' exposure levels despite the employees' complaints about the exposure. Particularly disturbing is the fact that company managers knowingly refused to perform personal exposure monitoring of employees most likely to have the highest exposure levels. Had the monitoring be done, managers could have identified over-exposures and mitigated or prevented them from occurring in the first place. Instead, these employees were needlessly sickened while simply doing their jobs," said Robert Garvey, OSHA's Albany area director.

OSHA says ERS did not comply with several requirements for protecting employees engaged in hazardous waste operations.

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