Northern Steel Castings Cited by OSHA at Wisconsin Plant for Silica Dust Exposure

Posted by on November 28, 2011

The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration has cited Northern Steel Castings for two safety and four health violations at its Wisconsin Rapids carbon steel foundry, including for overexposing workers to crystalline silica, a known respiratory hazard, according to a Nov. 28 press release.

Proposed fines total $95,480.

OSHA initiated the inspection after receiving a complaint alleging overexposure to crystalline silica, a basic component of soil, sand, granite and other minerals. When workers chip, cut, drill or grind objects that contain silica, small particles can be created and breathing in crystalline silica dust can cause silicosis, an incurable condition that reduces the ability of lungs to take in oxygen.

Northern Steel Castings also was cited for two repeat health violations for allowing workers to be overexposed to iron oxide and copper fumes in the foundry, and for exposing employees to fire hazards when welding inside plywood booths.

A repeat violation exists when an employer previously has been cited for the same or a similar violation of a standard, regulation, rule or order at any other facility in federal enforcement states within the last five years. The company was cited for these violations in 2006.

Additionally, three serious health violations were cited for failing to keep eating surfaces free from contamination by hexavalent chromium; failing to provide ventilation when welding, and for failing to provide adequate emergency exits.

A serious violation occurs when there is substantial probability that death or serious physical harm could result from a hazard about which the employer knew or should have known.

Northern Steel Castings had been inspected by OSHA 24 times prior to this inspection and was cited for overexposure to silica six other times. 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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