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Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Lead Exposure: OSHA Cites USA Brass Company Inc. of Bozeman, Mont., for overexposing workers to lead

The U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration has cited USA Brass Company Inc. in Bozeman for 10 serious violations, with $45,500 in proposed penalties, after a May inspection conducted under the agency's national emphasis program for lead found workers overexposed to the metal. The company buys and provides brass for individual reloaders and commercial ammunition manufacturers.

Staff from OSHA's Billings Area Office found serious violations, including failure to conduct initial determinations of worker overexposure to lead; implement engineering and work practice controls to reduce lead exposure; provide workers with adequate respiratory protection and personal protective clothing; prohibit food and beverages from areas with excessive accumulations of lead; and train workers on lead hazards.

"The toxic effects of occupational exposure to lead have been well-known for a long time, but this employer did not have basic safeguards to protect workers against this hazard," said Jeff Funke, the agency's area director in Billings. "Employees exposed to lead must be evaluated to assess exposure levels accurately and, if necessary, implement engineering controls to train and ensure the use of personal protective clothing and equipment, including respirators."

Other serious violations include failing to implement respiratory protection, hearing conservation and hazard communication programs; have adequate housekeeping procedures; perform required medical examinations; and post required signs in hazardous areas. 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.
USA Brass was also cited for one other-than-serious violation for not certifying forklift operators' training and evaluations. An other-than-serious violation is one that has a direct relationship to job safety and health, but probably would not cause death or serious physical harm.

The company has 15 business days from receipt of the citations and proposed 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.