Countertop Manufacturing Company Cited for Silica, Multiple Safety and Health Hazards

                               

Decatur, GA (WorkersCompensation.com)- A Georgia-based countertop manufacturer has been cited by OSHA for exposing its workers to silica, exposure, risks of amputation, and other health hazards.

According to a spokesperson from the Department of Labor, OSHA’s inspection at the Decatur manufacturing facility was initiated by a complaint. According to the Citation and Penalty Notification of Penalty that WorkersCompensation.com obtained, between February 12 and May 16 of this year OSHA went to the facility and found Atlanta Kitchen LLC in  serious violation of quite a few health codes  that could potentially increase the risk of sickness or injuries to the employees.

OSHA’s first inspection, in February found the company was in serious violation of the following: 

  • Workers in the material handling and polishing area were manually transferring granite slabs that weighed greater than 300 pounds, exposing them to foot injuries. The employer had not ensured that any of the workers were wearing protection on their feet, and had not conducted training. 
  • Employees who were dry polishing granite countertops bad been provide with the required half-mask respirators that were tight fitting for protection against the silica dust and were using organic vapor cartridges for protection against the silica. However, the employer had not ensured employees were using the correct cartridges. Also, medical evaluations had never been performed prior to requiring employees to wear the respirators. 
  • The company had not conducted annual fit tests to make sure the respirators were the right sizes for the employees. 
  •  The respirators were stored on a nail in the dry fabricating area, and were not cleaned and disinfected as often as they should have been to ensure they were sanitary. They were also not properly stored to protect them from dust, sunlight, contamination, or extreme temperatures.

A separate investigation in March resulted in serious violations for exposing employees to unacceptable noise levels.

OSHA returned to the facilities ibn May and found the company:  

  • Had not established procedures to prevent or fix malfunctions that could increase exposures silica dust. 
  •  Had not investigated work practice controls such as the use of water to control dust and/or positioning of local exhaust hoods, thus potentially exposing an employee that was dry polishing and dry buffing granite countertops to respirable silica levels that were 2.9 times higher than the allowed amount, and exposing another employee who was assisting the job to respirable silica levels that were 2.36 times the allowed amount.

“Our inspection has identified several serious safety and health hazards that put employees at risk of injury or illness," said William Fulcher, the OSHA Atlanta-East Area Director, in an interview with WorkersCompenstion.com. "OSHA offers compliance assistance resources for employers to work proactively to improve their workplaces and prevent work-related injuries and illnesses.'

To date, the company has been slapped with $43,569 in proposed penalties by OSHA.

Because many workers, like the ones at Atlanta Kitchen LLC are exposed to high amounts of silica OSHA is seeking information on additional engineering and work practice control methods to effectively limit the exposure to silica for the equipment and tasks currently on Table 1 of the agency's Respirable Crystalline Silica Stands for Construction. 

Table 1 is the specified exposure control methods when working with materials that contain crystalline silica. In addition, OSHA seeks comments concerning paragraphs (a)(3) of the Respirable Crystalline Silica Standard for General Industry on whether to expand the situations under which maritime employers and general industry would have to comply with Table 1 of the silica requirements for construction.

 

 

The information will be used by OSHA as it consideres new developments and improved methods for equipment that creates exposures to silica. It will also provide more data to the agency about exposures to silica from equipment and duties using various control methods under all different kinds of workplace environments.  


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