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Two companies cited after workers show elevated levels of inorganic arsenic at chemical facility

19 May 2023

A US Department of Labor investigation has found that two companies operating at a wood treatment chemical manufacturing facility in Georgia, US exposed workers to chemical hazards.

The department’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) opened an inspection at Arch Wood Protection Inc. after screening tests by the Georgia Poison Center found workers employed by the manufacturer had elevated levels of arsenic. The agency also opened an inspection with Mullins Mechanical & Welding LLC of Carrollton, the facility’s maintenance contractor.

The agency cited Arch Wood Protection with nine serious violations for:

- Exposing workers to inorganic arsenic at up to 20 times above the allowable exposure limit.
- Allowing hazardous inorganic dust to accumulate on desks, food packaging, lockers, refrigerators and the inner surfaces of workers’ respirators.
- Not requiring employees using respirators to remove facial hair that might prevent a proper fit and seal.
- Allowing workers to 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.
- Not providing adequate eye protection for workers handling inorganic arsenic acid samples.

OSHA has proposed penalties total $124,780 (£100,000) for Arch Wood Protection.

In addition, Mullins Mechanical & Welding received citations for four serious violations for not providing – and making sure employees used – appropriate decontamination procedures and equipment after working in regulated areas. OSHA has proposed $53,574 (£43,000) in penalties.

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

Since 2014, OSHA and the Georgia Poison Center have collaborated to protect workers. The joint efforts include referrals of workplace incidents involving employee exposures to a chemical agent or substance through inhalation, absorption, skin contact or accidental injection.

The companies have 15 business days from receipt of their citations and penalties to comply, request an informal conference with OSHA’s area director, or contest the findings before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.

OSHA said that Arch Wood Protection Inc. has already contested the findings before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.

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