OSHA has cited a Connecticut construction contractor for exposing workers to mercury and respirator hazards while they dismantled a mercury boiler at a New Hampshire worksite. The agency has proposed $329,548 in fines.
The inspection, which was sparked by worker complaints, found that employees were being exposed to high levels of mercury during the demolition and that the contractor was not taking steps to reduce exposures to below permissible levels. As well, says OSHA, the firm did not evaluate the respirator program’s effectiveness as required, and did not consult with employees to identify and correct any respirator problems.
In total, OSHA cited the contractor for two willful and six serious violations addressing mercury, respirators, protective clothing, a and sanitary conditions.
“These hazards were certainly preventable,” said OSHA New Hampshire area director Rosemarie O. Cole. “High mercury exposure can result in permanent nervous system and kidney damage. It is critically important that employers remain vigilant and ensure that effective safeguards are in place to prevent and minimize workers’ exposures.”
While demolition work involves many of the hazards present in construction, dismantling a structure presents additional hazards due to unknown factors that make the work particularly dangerous. Among these OSHA points to:
- Changes from the structure’s design introduced during construction.
- Approved or unapproved modifications that altered the original design.
- Material hidden within structural members like lead, asbestos, or silica.
- Unknown strengths or weaknesses of construction materials.
- Hazards created by the demolition methods used.
That’s why it’s essential that employers plan properly, provide the right protection, and train employees about hazards and safe use of equipment.