The U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) cited Fraser Shipyards with 29 violations upon discovering workers were overexposed to lead. According to OSHA, many of the violations were found to be in complete disregard of worker safety and wellbeing, resulting in a proposed fine of $1.4 million. Fraser is based in Superior, Wis.
OSHA’s recent charges come after an investigation of the company’s $10 million contract to modernize the Herbert C. Jackson, a ship owned by Interlake Steamship Co. The project has been one of the company’s most ambitious projects in recent years, but OSHA believes it was at the expense of worker safety.
The citations levied against Fraser include 14 “willful egregious” violations, each representing one of 14 workers suffering from severe lead exposure. Another 10 violations were noted “serious” safety violations, while just five were found to be just “willful” violations. According to the Star Tribune, willful safety violations are uncommon considering the company either “failed to comply with safety regulations” or acted with “plain indifference to employee safety.”
“Fraser Shipyards accepted a contract with a very low profit margin and penalties for delayed completion but could not meet the schedule without endangering its workers,” David Michaels, OSHA’s assistant secretary of labor, said in a press statement. “The employer was unwilling to pay the necessary costs to protect employees from lead exposure.”
Lead exposure of any kind is not to be taken lightly, especially when on the job. Fraser tested more than 120 of its employees that were untested by OSHA, discovering more than 75 percent had elevated levels of lead in their bloodstream. Lead exposure has been linked to brain damage, kidney disease, as well as harm to the body’s reproductive system.
As a result of the company’s egregious misdeeds, OSHA has placed Fraser Shipyards in its “Severe Violator Enforcement Program,” requiring it to meet even stricter demands of employee safety. The company was also found responsible for asbestos exposure in 2000 and even more lead-related violations in 1993.
Source: Star Tribune