After an inspection at the beginning of this year, the Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) cited Piqua Champion Foundry Inc. for 20 safety violations. Seven of those were repeat violations and 13 were serious violations.
The citations were for exposing workers to dangerous amounts of silica dust and other hazards that can cause silicosis and other serious lung diseases. Workers would grind up castings and reline furnaces in these unsafe conditions. The fines totaled $57,140.
The company earned repeat violations for failing to meet respiratory protection standards. OSHA found that they didn’t give employees that utilized respirators medical evaluations; they did not monitor carbon monoxide levels and did not mark respirators that were in need of new filters. They also failed to put procedures in place for machines like furnaces and mold machines that would make sure workers did not chance amputation or even death when they had to service the machines. They also repeatedly failed to properly communicate the hazards of forklifts during training.
The last time the facility was inspected was in 2009 when OSHA found similar violations, and since that was within the past five years they were issued these repeat violations. The serious violations came from over-exposing workers to silica, not taking steps to reduce such exposure and not training workers about silica. Serious violations are given when a hazard could result in death or serious harm and the employer should have known, or knew that the hazard existed.
The current OSHA rules regarding silica levels are over 40 years old. They proposed a new rule that would update the rules about occupational exposure to modern times, and would utilize years of research and scientific evidence. One suggestion within the rule would be to apply water to cutting blades before use, greatly reducing the amount of dust they would generate. The agency thinks the new rule would save about 700 lives and prevent over 1,500 cases of silicosis a year.