A Wisconsin dry wall manufacturer has been cited for 15 serious health and safety violations after an Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) inspection found it exposed its workers to excessive dust and silica hazards. Workers who inhale silica and dust particles can develop disabling and sometimes fatal lung diseases, including silicosis and lung cancer.
The company, Total Wall, Inc., now faces more than $60,000 in fines. OSHA inspectors found that not only did the drywall manufacturer expose its employees to silica and airborne dust, but they failed to develop a respiratory protection program for workers. Other violations include allowing employees to use damaged forklifts, failing to train workers about the hazardous chemicals present in their workplace and exposing them to fall hazards in mixing tanks without standard railings.
"Exposure to silica can be deadly, and limiting that exposure is essential," said Ann Grevenkamp, OSHA's area director in Madison. "Every year, many exposed workers lose their ability not only to work, but also to breathe. Employers such as Total Wall have a responsibility to protect workers from exposure to this deadly particle which causes hundreds of deaths each year from silicosis – an incurable and progressive disease – as well as lung cancer, other respiratory diseases, and kidney disease."
Silica exposure occurs when workers cut, saw, grind, drill and crush materials such as stone, rock, concrete, brick, block and mortar, releasing tiny particles (at least 100 times smaller than sand) into the air. As silica dust accumulates in a person's lungs, it not only leads to silicosis, but it can overwhelm the body's ability to fight infections, making him or her more susceptible to certain illnesses, such as tuberculosis.
To learn more about the OSHA safety guidelines that can help reduce silica exposure at your work site, or for help developing a more general construction safety plan, contact Safety Advantage today.