According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), a Texas metal-plating company willfully exposed workers to eye injuries for over a decade. Markedly, the El Paso jewelry metal-plating finisher exposed workers to serious hazards. Such hazards include willfully failing to protect people working with dangerous acids and other chemicals. Previously, in January 2023, OSHA issued targeted enforcement guidance that includes an instance-by-instance citation policy for specific “high-gravity” serious violations.
Background on the Investigation
In general, OSHA cited the metal-plating company for not providing required eyewash stations or showers in specific areas. Indeed, these areas include places where employees faced risks of eye injuries associated with exposure to hydrochloric and nitric acids and ferric chloride. These findings follow an OSHA investigation that opened in September 2022.
Overall, OSHA issued the company citations for 12 serious violations after inspectors identified the hazardous exposure to the harmful chemicals. The agency also found obstructed exits, electrical hazards, and improperly stored acetylene and oxygen cylinders. OSHA also determined that the jewelry metal-plating finisher failed to establish and implement a written respiratory protection program. Without a written program, the company did not provide workers with work site-specific procedures in the event of an accident. The company also did not assess the presence of – or the possibility of – other workplace hazards. This determination would help employers require personal protective equipment for employee use. Finally, OSHA also found that the company failed to implement a written hazard communication program.
Previous Investigations and Current Fine
Previously, OSHA issued the metal-plating company serious citations in September 2011 and repeat citations in August 2012. Similarly, these citations involved failing to provide a suitable facility for quick drenching of the eyes to prevent eye injuries. Additionally, in September 2012, the company received serious citations for failing to conduct a workplace hazard assessment. The company was also lacking required hazard communications. Because OSHA found similar infractions nearly 15 years ago, the agency considers the most recent findings “willful” on the employer’s part.
In conclusion, based on the current citations and the findings being considered willful, OSHA has proposed $292,693 in penalties.