HELENA, Mont. (AP) — A Bozeman company that produces brass casings for ammunition manufacturers and individuals who load their own ammunition faces a possible $45,500 fine for failing to protect its employees from lead exposure, federal workplace safety regulators said Monday.
The U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration proposed the fine after its inspectors found 10 serious violations at USA Brass Company Inc.
"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," OSHA Billings director Jeff Funke said in a statement.
The OSHA inspection happened six months ago and the company has been in compliance with the federal agency's requirements for several months, USA Brass CEO Zach Flanagan said.
No workers were sickened by lead exposure, he said.
OSHA spokesman Jose Carnevali confirmed there were no reports of employee lead exposure, but inspectors found excessive lead levels in the air at the company's facility.
Flanagan declined to detail the changes the company made or whether he plans to challenge the proposed fine. The company has 15 business days to comply, request a conference with Funke or contest the findings before an OSHA review panel.
"We're a new company, six months old," Flanagan said. "Safety is absolutely our No. 1 concern."
The violations cited by OSHA include failures to conduct initial determinations of worker overexposure to lead or have controls to reduce exposure.
The company also did not provide workers with adequate respiratory protection, ensure they use protective clothing and equipment or train them on lead hazards.
Other serious violations included failures to:
— Prohibit food and beverages from areas with excessive accumulations of lead.
— Have programs on respiratory protection, hearing conservation and hazard communications.
— Have adequate housekeeping procedures.
— Perform required medical examinations.
— Post required signs in hazardous areas.
OSHA officials define a serious violation as one in which there is a probability that death or injury could result from a hazard the company should have known about. USA Brass also was cited for not certifying forklift operators' training and evaluations, which is not considered a serious violation.