Connecticut environmental lab faces $907K in fines for willfully exposing employees to workplace carcinogen
HARTFORD, CT – For several months, employees at a Manchester environmental laboratory complained to management about faulty ventilation systems at the work site and about symptoms – including dizziness, light-headedness, headaches and unsteady walking – all of which can be caused by exposure to methylene chloride, a highly hazardous chemical and a workplace carcinogen. Due to inadequate ventilation and recurring leaks from equipment in work areas, plus the use of methylene chloride in analyzing environmental samples, employees sustained exposures to methylene chloride, including some above the permissible exposure limit.
Despite knowledge of these employee complaints that addressed health hazard concerns, management at Phoenix Environmental Laboratories Inc. took few effective measures to monitor and address the exposures and provide effective safeguards for its employees.
As a result, the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration has cited Phoenix Environmental Laboratories Inc. for six willful violations, 10 serious violations and one other than serious violation and proposed a total of $907,253 in penalties.
OSHA’s inspection found that Phoenix Environmental Laboratories Inc. failed to:
- Ensure employees were not overexposed to methylene chloride.
- Perform initial exposure monitoring and inform employees of monitoring results.
- Determine employees’ exposure levels when the control methods were known to be inadequate.
- Ensure adequate ventilation during procedures that exposed employees to methylene chloride.
- Implement procedures to detect, contain and safely dispose of leaking methylene chloride.
- Provide employees with adequate skin, eye and face protection from methylene chloride and other solvents.
- Make medical surveillance available and provide medical exams to exposed employees.
- Provide employees with information and training on the hazards associated with the chemicals they use.
- Ensure that chemical fume hoods functioned properly and did not leak onto employees.
“Phoenix Environmental Laboratories knew of its employees’ exposure to a highly hazardous and carcinogenic chemical, yet chose to ignore their complaints and failed to take effective corrective action,” said OSHA Area Director Dale Varney in Hartford, Connecticut.
OSHA uncovered additional hazards during the inspection, which included exposure to flammable vapors, improper storage, unsafe handling and transfer of flammable chemicals, lack of suitable quick-drenching eye facilities where corrosives were used, and several electrical violations.
Phoenix Environmental Laboratories Inc., an environmental laboratory specializing in analysis and testing of water, soil, sludge, air and solid samplings, has 15 business days from receipt of its citations and penalties to comply, request an informal conference with OSHA’s area director, or contest the findings before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.