OSHA cites Naugatuck company

NAUGATUCK — A Naugatuck blasting company faces $47,600 in fines from the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration for 17 workplace health violations.

OSHA states in a news release that Maher Industries, doing business as A Fast Blast, was cited for overexposing employees to lead, silica and other health hazards after it failed to supply “basic, legally required safeguards.” OSHA said the violations occurred while the company worked on renovation of an Easthampton, Mass., mill.

“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,” stated Mary Hoye, OSHA’s area director for central and western Massachusetts, in the news release. “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.”

OSHA states that 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, the release states. The release states that Maher, an abrasive blasting contractor, was cited following an inspection opened in April by OSHA’s Springfield area office that was conducted following a complaint.

Employees were exposed to high airborne concentrations of lead and silica generated by the abrasive blasting, according to OSHA. Feasible engineering and administrative controls to reduce the exposure levels were not used, OSHA states, adding that respirators were not properly used, as well.

“The lead exposure hazard was compounded by the lack of a shower facility and protective clothing and eye protection for exposed workers,” the news release states. “The company failed to monitor lead exposure levels and allowed employees to consume beverages adjacent to abrasive blasting.”

Lead exposure can lead to long-term damage of the central nervous, urinary, blood and reproductive systems. Crystalline silica can cause lung cancer, silicosis, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and kidney disease.

The company has 15 days to respond to OSHA.

Maher Industries owner James Maher said he plans to have an informal conference with OSHA to talk about the claims. He said the company voluntarily works with OSHA to go over safety procedures on a regular basis. He also said that in this specific job, he signed a contract with a general contractor who was supposed to take care of safety requirements but never did, causing a problem for his company.

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