Contractor's violations on lead prompt state fine of $140,330

March 09, 1991|By Michael K. Burns

The state job safety office has issued one of its largest fines ever, with penalties totaling $140,330 against Whiting-Turner Contracting Co. for lead-poison exposure of workers repairing the Paper Mill Road bridge over Loch Raven Reservoir last year.

The 20 citations issued by the Maryland Occupational Safety and Health office this week include 18 "willful" violations, the most serious category of infraction.

Samples of airborne lead taken at the site in October ranged from 16 to 57 times the state average exposure limit of 50 micrograms per cubic meter of air, MOSH said.

The MOSH inspection was triggered by reports of employees removed from the work site because of high levels of lead in their blood, reports required to be filed by physicians and medical laboratories with the Department of the Environment.

Four workers on the project had blood-lead levels that were high enough to require that they be removed from the job, while about eight others had elevated but less serious blood-lead levels, said Marvin Shiflett, business manager of Local 16 of the Iron Workers union.

Workers on the bridge were exposed to airborne lead from sandblasting, welding and burning the old, lead-based paint on the structure. The paint contained at least 23 percent lead, according to MOSH.

Initially, the company provided no respirators, then supplied the wrong type of respirators for filtering lead fumes and dust, a situation corrected only after repeated union complaints, Mr. Shiflett said.

Whiting-Turner officials were not available for comment on the case. The company has two weeks to contest the citations.

The city contractor was cited for failing to provide proper respirators, protective clothing and wash-up facilities for workers, and for failure to train them in lead hazards and protections.

MOSH also cited Whiting-Turner for allegedly failing to pay and to transfer employees to a lead-free job after their blood-lead levels were found to exceed action limits, at least 50 micrograms per deciliter of blood.

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