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Secretary of Labor Thomas E. Perez
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News Release

OSHA News Release: [05/10/2011]
Contact Name: Ted Fitzgerald
Phone Number: (617) 565-2074
Release Number:
11-0170-BOS

US Labor Department’s OSHA notifies National Park Service in Puerto Rico about employees’ exposure to lead hazards at San Juan National Historic Site

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico —The U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration has issued 16 notices of unhealthful and unsafe working conditions to the National Park Service-San Juan National Historic Site for violations of workplace health and safety standards, including exposing workers to lead and other hazards during lead paint encapsulation work in a building at the site.

As required by the Occupational Safety and Health Act, federal agencies must comply with the same health and safety standards as private sector employers. The federal agency equivalent of a private sector citation is the notice of an unhealthful or unsafe working condition, which informs agency officials of violations. OSHA cannot propose monetary penalties against another federal agency for failure to comply with its standards.

A single alleged willful violation related to lead hazards encompasses not training employees on the recognition and avoidance of lead hazards, not conducting an initial lead exposure assessment, allowing lead to accumulate on floors, not providing clean change areas, not providing for laundering of protective clothing, allowing employees to leave the work area wearing protective clothing, inadequate hand-washing facilities and not notifying workers of their blood lead levels. A willful violation is one committed with intentional knowing or voluntary disregard for the law's requirements, or with plain indifference to worker safety and health.

Eight alleged serious violations resulted from a lack of medical evaluations and fit-testing for employees using respirators, improper storage of compressed gas cylinders, no eye-wash stations where employees worked with corrosive products, an uncovered electrical receptacle, a lack of hazard communication training and material data sheets of the products used, and not implementing hazard communication and written respiratory protection programs. A serious violation occurs when there is substantial probability that death or serious physical harm could result from a hazard about which the employer knew or should have known.

Seven alleged other-than-serious violations include record keeping, housekeeping, and safety and health hazard recognition deficiencies. An other-than-serious violation is one that has a direct relationship to job safety and health, but probably would not cause death or serious physical harm.

"Lead adversely affects body systems and can result in serious illness and impairment. That is why safeguards must always be utilized to protect workers' health. The National Park Service must take effective action to correct these hazards and prevent them from occurring again," said José A. Carpena, OSHA's area director in Puerto Rico. "The gravity of these hazards is reflected in the fact that, had this been a private sector employer, these conditions would have resulted in fines totaling $115,000."

The National Park Service has 15 business days from receipt of the notices to comply or request an informal conference with OSHA's area director in San Juan; telephone 787-277-1560. To report workplace incidents, fatalities or situations posing imminent danger to workers, call the agency's toll-free hotline at 800-321-OSHA (6742).

Under Executive Order 12196 and Section 19 of the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970, the head of each federal agency is responsible for providing safe and healthful workplaces for employees. OSHA's role is to ensure these conditions for all employees by setting and enforcing standards, and providing training, education and assistance. For more information, visit http://www.osha.gov.