OSHA: Naugatuck firm endangered workers

NAUGATUCK, Conn. (WTNH) — A Fast Blast, also known as Maher Industries, could face a nearly $50,000 fine after it was cited for numerous alleged workplace health violations for its work on a mill in Easthampton, Mass.

Employees were exposed to lead and silica, according to the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration.

“Workers performing abrasive blasting during the renovation of an Easthampton mill were overexposed to lead and silica and faced other health hazards due to their employer’s failure to supply basic, legally required safeguards,” the agency said.

The company has 15 days to respond to the citation.

“The hazards of lead and silica are well-known, and overexposure to them can seriously compromise the long-term health and well-being of workers,” said Mary Hoye, OSHA’s area director for central and western Massachusetts. “The safeguards to protect workers are well-known to employers who oversee this work. It is their responsibility to ensure that proper and effective protections are used at each job site.”

Lead exposure can cause long-term damage to the central nervous, urinary, blood and reproductive systems, and crystalline silica can cause lung cancer, silicosis, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and kidney disease in workers, the agency said.

“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,” according to a statement. “A Fast Blast faces $47,600 in proposed fines, following an inspection opened in April 2014 by OSHA’s Springfield Area Office, conducted in response to a complaint.”

OSHA said employees were exposed to excessive amounts of hazardous materials, and respirators were not properly tested or maintained. The site also lacked shower facilities, protective clothing and eye protection for workers and did not monitor lead exposure levels, it was reported. OSHA added that the company allowed employees to consume beverages adjacent to abrasive blasting.

“Respirators were not cleaned and disinfected before and after each use, and the air compressor used to supply air to the respirators lacked a carbon monoxide alarm,” OSHA said.

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