The federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has proposed nearly $1.4 million in penalties for Fraser Shipyards in Superior for exposing workers to high lead levels while retrofitting a ship.
The agency’s sampling results determined that 14 workers at the company had lead levels up to 20 times the exposure limit and cited 14 willful health violations for each instance of overexposure.
OSHA also issued 10 serious violations to the company and placed Fraser Shipyards in its Severe Violator Enforcement Program for failing to address the safety and health hazards.
Fraser was under a ten million dollar contract to modernize the Herbert C. Jackson and OSHA opened an investigation after receiving multiple complaints about unsafe working conditions.
Dr. David Michaels, assistant secretary of labor for Occupational Safety and Health, says the company had a low profit margin on the work and “could not meet the schedule without endangering its workers.” Michaels says the “employer was unwilling to pay the necessary costs to protect employees from lead exposure.”
Investigators also found Fraser failed to identify and inform employees of the presence, location and quantity of asbestos containing materials.
President and Chief Operating Officer at Fraser, James Farkas says they “strongly disagree with OSHA’s statement that any of the issues were caused or worsened by business or profit motivations.” He says they “acted to protect our people as soon as we learned of the problems” and has taken extensive steps promptly to protect workers, contractors and others.
At the time of the inspection, Fraser had a workforce of about 190 employees. The company has 15 business days to comply or contest the findings.