OSHA investigation finds workers exposed to lead, copper fumes at Republic Metals in Cleveland

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CLEVELAND -- A complaint that alleged unsafe work conditions at Republic Metals Inc. resulted in U.S. Department of Labor Occupational Safety and Health Administration inspectors uncovering dangerous levels of lead and copper fumes. The investigation found that the company failed to implement engineering controls and maintain areas free of lead dust and accumulation. The Aug. 4, 2014, inspection of the Cleveland facility resulted in 19 serious safety and health citations, with proposed penalties of $42,800.

Lead exposure can cause long-term damage to the central nervous, urinary, blood and reproductive systems.

'Lead is a leading cause of workplace illness and a common health hazard. Lead particles can travel from work sites on clothing and materials, which endangers workers' and families' lives,' said Howard Eberts, OSHA's area director in Cleveland. 'Republic Metals failed to protect employees from known dangers in its manufacturing process, and this must stop.'

OSHA found workers were exposed to copper fumes and lead in excess of levels allowed over an eight-hour period. The agency identified the company's failure to implement engineering controls that would have limited exposure and to train employees about exposure hazards. Republic Metals also did not monitor worker overexposure and failed to post warning signs in overexposure areas, and it did not provide properly fitted respirators or train workers in respiratory protection use.

Other violations involved lack of personal protective equipment, hygiene and housekeeping practices. Additionally, Republic Metals did not monitor employee exposure to excess noise properly and failed to train workers on potential exposure to methylene chloride. The inspectors also noted electrical hazards, lack of machine guarding and struck-by hazards from machinery.

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.

Republic Metals 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.

To ask questions, obtain compliance assistance, file a complaint, or report workplace hospitalizations, fatalities or situations posing imminent danger to workers, the public should call OSHA's toll-free hotline at 800-321-OSHA (6742) or the agency's Cleveland office at 216-447-4194.

Under the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970, employers are responsible for providing safe and healthful workplaces for their employees. OSHA's role is to ensure these conditions for America's working men and women by setting and enforcing standards, and providing training, education and assistance. For more information, visit http://www.osha.gov.

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