Factory Workers Exposed to 20 Times the Allowed Amounts of Arsenic

The investigation found that hazardous inorganic dust had been allowed to accumulate.

The U.S. Department of Labor has cited a chemical manufacturer based in Georgia for exposing workers to as much as 20 times the allowable amounts of inorganic arsenic.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration recently investigated Arch Wood Protection, a company that produces chemicals for treating wood, along with its maintenance contractor, Mullins Mechanical & Welding.

The investigation found that hazardous inorganic dust had been allowed to accumulate on desks, food packaging, lockers, refrigerators and the inner surfaces of workers’ respirators, according to a news release from the Department of Labor. It also revealed that employees using respirators were not required to remove facial hair that could prevent the equipment from properly fitting.

The companies were also accused of letting workers enter regulated areas without a respirator; not requiring contractors to change clothing and decontaminate properly at the end of their shifts; allowing pallets of materials to block emergency eyewash and shower stations; and not providing adequate eye protection for workers handling inorganic arsenic acid samples, according to the agency.

OSHA has proposed penalties totaling nearly $125,000 for Arch Wood, which is contesting the findings of the investigation. Mullins received four citations, which carry more than $55,000 in proposed penalties.

“Both of these companies have an obligation to protect their employees from exposure to hazardous chemicals,” said OSHA Area Director Joshua Turner. “Sadly, neither met those obligations and needlessly exposed workers to potentially life-changing dangers.”

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