Metals plant faces fines for failing to safeguard workers from cadmium

September 14, 2004

Ansonia Copper and Brass Inc., Ansonia, Conn., faces $55,500 in fines from the U.S. Labor Department’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) for failing to safeguard workers against overexposure to cadmium, inadequate respirator use and maintenance, and unguarded moving machine parts at its 75 Liberty St. metal casting and extrusion plant.

The company was cited for 26 alleged serious and other-than-serious violations of the Occupational Safety and Health act following OSHA inspections conducted between February and July. The inspections, prompted by employee complaints, found instances in which employees were exposed to excess airborne concentrations of cadmium, and the company failed to address the overexposures adequately.

Cadmium, often used in metal processing, can enter the body through ingestion or inhalation. Long-term exposure can lead to kidney dysfunction or lung or prostate cancer. OSHA standards mandate steps employers must take to protect employees exposed to cadmium.

OSHA’s inspection found a failure to implement effective work practices and engineering controls to reduce cadmium exposure levels; inadequate cadmium exposure monitoring; an inadequate and outdated cadmium plan; unlabeled cadmium containers; training not provided to all affected employees; and a medically removed employee allowed to return to work without a doctor’s written permission.

Respirator hazards included failing to ensure respirator use; not inspecting or maintaining all respirators in a sanitary condition; inadequate fit-testing; not training employees in respirator use, cleaning, and storage; and failing to evaluate workplace conditions to ensure the respirator program was implemented and effective.

The inspection also identified 18 instances in which employees were exposed to injuries from unguarded moving machine parts and broken or flying coils. Other hazards included inadequate safeguards to prevent the accidental start-up of machines during maintenance; incomplete and uncertified hazard analyses; inadequate employee training; blocked access to an electrical disconnect; and tripping hazards. Other-than-serious hazards included failing to record all workplace injuries and illnesses, an obscured exit sign, incomplete records, and missing warning signs.