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Feb-23-2011 04:48printcomments

OSHA Cites Oregon Ballistic Laboratories LLC Over Employee Lead Contamination

Past and present employees of Oregon Ballistic Laboratories in Salem should be aware of lead poisoning problems revealed by OSHA.

Firing range and lead poisoning
Photo from CDC article: Take Aim at Protecting Yourself

(SALEM, Ore.) - Oregon Ballistic Laboratories LLC has been fined by Oregon's Occupational Safety & Health Division (OSHA) for several violations including the lead poisoning of employees, one of which was at a near toxic level at 55 micrograms per deciliter (µg/dL), where 60 is hospitalization and 10 is the maximum you should have.

"The employee(sic) are exposed to lead contamination while operating testing equipment and during clean up."

Barry Sandgren, Enforcement Manager with OSHA's Salem Field Office, says Oregon Ballistic Laboratories LLC also failed to hold safety meetings, modified forklifts in ways that made them unsafe, and were operating without adequate ventilation, or permits in place.

This company that expressly works in the ballistics field was also cited for not developing a written lead compliance program, not developing a written respiratory program, and also for failing to communicate hazards about chemicals.

According to Business Oregon, Oregon Ballistic Labs (OBL) of Salem received $160,000 from the Oregon Business Development Fund (OBDF) to finance a new facility.

More good information - Childhood Lead Poisoning - Environmental Health Watch

The loan was the first from the agency under new, more flexible rules for the fund passed in a special legislative session in February 2010[1].

Oregon Ballistics Laboratories LLC handles government contracts.

Oregon Department of Consumer and Business Services Oregon
Occupational Safety & Health Division (OR-OSHA)

Inspection No: 314609637
Optional Report No: Q4567-030-10
Date of Inspection: October 6, 2010

In response to your complaint concerning safety and/or health hazards at Oregon Ballistic Laboratories LLC, the Oregon Occupational Safety and Health Division conducted an inspection. The results of our investigation of your complaint are as follows:

Item: The new firing range completed in 2010, is not properly ventilated.

Findings: The news ballistics laboratory had a new mechanical exhaust with scrubber. The installation of equipment and vents were not completed, there a ventilation study could not be conducted. There were no lead exposures in the new firing range because employees had not used the new range for testing. No violation.

Item: Employees are potentially exposed to lead.

Findings: The employee are exposed to lead contamination while operating testing equipment and during clean up. The employer was cited for not developing a written lead compliance program and for not developing a written respiratory program.

Item: Chemicals are not properly labeled.

Findings: All chemicals were properly labeled at the time of this inspection. The employer was cited for not having a written hazard communication program.

Item: Chemicals are not properly labeled.

Findings: All chemicals were properly labeled at the time of this inspection. The employer was cited for not having a written hazard communication program.

Item: Spray paint cans are stored in the welding shop.

Findings: The welding shop was owned by Composite Materials Research & Development LLC and spray paint can had been removed from the welding shop at the time of his inspection. No violation.

Item: There is no ventilation in the welding shop.

Findings: The welding shop was owned by Composite Materials Research & Development LLC. The employer was cited for not providing mechanical ventilation in a space of less than 10,000 feet and in a room having a ceiling height of less than 16 feet.

Item: Forklifts are not properly maintained or have been modified (removing safety barriers or guards)

Findings: The employer was cited for altering the industrial truck by removing the carriage to position products for testing. The carriage was missing two vertical bars.

Item: There is no safety committee.

Findings: Oregon Ballistic Laboratories and Composite Materials Research & Development LLC had less than 10 employees each at the time of this inspection and were not required to have a safety committee. The employers were cited for not holding safety meetings.

See the original document: Oregon Ballistics Laboratories LLC OSHA Inspection

According to their Website, Oregon Ballistic Laboratories in Salem is an independent laboratory specializing in evaluating bullet resistant materials for both ballistic and fragmentation protection."

They say their "laboratory is fully equipped with state of the art instruments to ensure the highest level of quality and consistency."

Composite Materials Research & Development, LLC owns a welding shop on the same premises. This company was cited by OSHA for not providing proper mechanical ventilation in a required space.

Lead Poisoning

The experts at the Mayo Clinic say poisoning occurs when lead builds up in a person's body, often over a period of months or years. Even small amounts of lead can cause serious health problems, and they say that at very high levels, lead poisoning can be fatal[2].

  • The standard elevated blood lead level (BLL) for adults' set by the Center for Disease Control is 25 micrograms per deciliter (25 µg/dl) of whole blood. This level recognizes that every adult has accumulated some lead contamination.
  • The level for a child is much lower, currently it is 10 micrograms per deciliter (10 µg/dl) of blood[3].

According to the article, Lead Poisoning: Effects and Causes by attorney and journalist Sonia Nair, lead was first mined in Turkey around 6500 B.C and its toxicity was recognized by 200 B.C.

This metal has been an active ingredient in paints, lead-glazed ceramic ware, water pipes, gasoline, metal jewelery, batteries, solder, cosmetics etc.

During the seventies, the usage of this metal was curtailed to some extent through legislation.

Lead poisoning occurs due to the increased levels of this metal in the blood.

This happens by the absorption of this metal, into the human body, through breathing or swallowing. Sometimes, even small amounts of lead can be toxic, especially for children.

Adults, who work as welders, potters, metal smelters, etc, are at a greater risk of lead poisoning. The CDC has published a recent alert about lead poisoning at firing ranges:

Numerous factors and routes of exposure can contribute to workers' and patrons' exposures to lead at indoor firing ranges.

Environmental factors include the type of ventilation system used at the firing range, the types of ammunition used, and the length of time that shooting occurs.

Exposure risk factors include the type and frequency of work practices conducted at the range, particularly those involving cleaning the firing range and other maintenance activities.

At indoor firing ranges, lead dust from firearms discharge can be inhaled or contaminate surfaces and then transferred to people's skin, especially the hands.

Lead from the hands can be ingested while handling food, beverages, and other items that contact the mouth.

Elevated blood lead levels can lead to lead poisoning. Symptoms of lead poisoning include the following:

  • Nausea
  • Diarrhea
  • Vomiting
  • Poor appetite
  • Weight loss
  • Anemia
  • Excessive lethargy or hyperactivity
  • Headaches
  • Abdominal pain
  • Kidney problems

In addition, lead poisoning, neurological effects, and mental retardation have occurred in children of workers who bring lead home on their clothes, skin, or other surfaces.

In one case study of law enforcement trainees described in the Alert, blood lead levels at an indoor firing range rose from a pre-training mean of 6.5 µg/dL to 50.4 µg/dL post training. Mean airborne lead concentrations were more than 40 times the OSHA permissible exposure limit. After changes were made to the ventilation system, airborne lead concentrations dropped to below detectable levels. In addition, using ammunition that had nylon-coated and copper-jacketed bullets substantially reduced (94% to 97%) airborne lead concentrations[4].

At least one Oregon family continues to suffer from dangerous levels of toxicity connected to employment at Oregon Ballistics LLC. In fact, a source who preferred not to be named, said the man who had the high level referenced above, has a baby girl and the level of toxicity has taken 10-15 years off of his life.

The CDC says lead poisoning can affect nearly every system in the body and because lead poisoning often occurs with no obvious symptoms, it frequently goes unrecognized. We are told there are more people who have worked for this company who have not been advised of the OSHA findings, and probably have no idea they may have been put at risk[5].

Salem-News.com contacted Oregon Ballistics LLC last week and asked if they would answer questions for our story. The company stated a willingness to work with us, and we dispatched this series of questions:

Australia has surprisingly less
tolerant standards than the US when
it comes to accepted levels of lead
poisoning. Learn more: lead.org.au

  1. Has Oregon Ballistics Laboratories and Composite Materials Research & Development LLC developed a lead compliance program and also a written respiratory program?
  2. Why were these programs not already in effect?
  3. Has a written hazard communication program been created?
  4. Why was Oregon Ballistics Laboratories and Composite Materials Research & Development LLC not in compliance?
  5. Do you believe the OSHA inspection and their findings were accurate?
  6. Has Oregon Ballistics Laboratories and Composite Materials Research & Development LLC created a safety committee?
  7. Do you believe that Oregon Ballistics Laboratories and Composite Materials Research & Development LLC violated employee's rights?
  8. What is your overall statement regarding the OSHA inspection?

John Harvey, General Manager of both Oregon Ballistic Laboratories, LLC and Composite Materials Research & Development, LLC, sent this response:

"Oregon Ballistic Laboratories, LLC and its sister company Composite Materials Research & Development, LLC, hold the health and safety of their employees as a matter of the utmost seriousness. Both companies comply with all applicable State of Oregon and Federal OSHA regulations."

Referenced sources:

[1] Business Oregon Financing Lifts Ballistic Labs' Growth [2] Lead poisoning - Mayo Clinic

[3] Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

[4] Washington Dept. of Ecology

[5] Lead Poisoning: Effects and Causes - Buzzle.com




Comments Leave a comment on this story.
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OMG September 22, 2013 12:58 pm (Pacific time)

I am really sorry I did not see this follow up story before, I was searching this company regarding other issues and came across this article, I was aware of the first new story that was published, I am wondering if this employer is still in buisness.


Salemite March 4, 2011 10:24 am (Pacific time)

First just out of my own curiosity I did some research on ballistic laboratories, funny thing, nothing about an Oregon laboratory comes up in any of the searches, there as an H.P. White and US Test Labs that seem to be very popular but nothing about an Oregon Lab. I did see that they are NIJ Certified to do some testing but so are about 10 other ballistic facilities, I think you are confused about them being a top laboratory. Second disgruntled employees are OSHA's best friend, any employer with half a brain cell knows that, do not break the rules and you will not have a problem. Third, I did contact OSHA with the report number; they stated that there was a fine imposed, so once again an untruth. Also I have to say that the posters defending this company are not people I would want to know, there seems to be no regard for the fact that the person who was exposed to a high level is more than likely someone’s child, brother, uncle, cousin, father and friend.


are you all stupid?? March 3, 2011 8:13 pm (Pacific time)

You all posting must be stupid or just don't do research. First of all, editr, contaminated does not mean poisoned. Look up contaminated in the dictionary. Second, no employees EVER working there have had lead poisoning. Third, they are one of the top labs in the country. Do some actual research before you form an opinion

Editor: So do you actually think I don't see your comments coming from the same email address?  Also, keep sending this crap and I will not necessarily publish it, dig?  (Hippy lingo) Glad you think a person can be so sick from lead contamination that they literally will have their lifespan affected by it, and somehow managed to not be 'poisoned' as they were poisoned.  I can actually get way into this, as we have a forensic toxicologist on our team, do you?  You are right, we need to go ahead and go to stage two with this investigation, I appreciate the suggestion.  Will the questions go unanswered again? 


concerned citizen March 3, 2011 8:06 pm (Pacific time)

I have a question for the guy that wroted this article. Did you do any actual research or just rely on false information from what is probably disgruntled ex-employees? Did you check with OSHA about this? I think if you did you would find the truth, there were minor infractions that once recognized were fixed immediately so there never was a fine from OSHA. This slander is unfounded and uncalled for. Do some research before you write, damn hippy!

Tim King: Are you also incapable of clicking the link and reading the OSHA report that this is based on?  Yes I talked to several employees and then took what I knew and asked several questions that this company refused to answer.  FYI, on a character level, hiding your name and calling me a 'damn hippy' says a whole lot about this company you represent.  Sure, I'm not impressed with a company that does this for a living, but you get to wait for a little while before the next wake up call..  The suspicions I have about this organization aren't even mentioned yet.  Today you get a B+ in keyboard bravery.  Next time be a man and use your name.        


Ex-Employee February 28, 2011 9:24 pm (Pacific time)

My comment was not to meant undermind what you have reported, I am glad you did, I really feel that these people were in danger. I was trying to point out to them that they are making fools of themselves by making comments that are very childish, trying to make them think without directly calling them names, sorry if I offended you, it was so not the intention.

 

Editor: Thank you for the clarification


Ex-employee February 28, 2011 7:48 pm (Pacific time)

Although they really hurt my feeling by telling people things about me that were confidential, I did have some good times at OBL, it is too bad that I had to tell my current employer they could not contact OBL, the reason, as a class project we had to call our classmates former employers, I have a feeling it was not a person authorized to give a reference, but, the person who spoke about me said bad things, not only is this highly illegal, it was also not warranted, so I rely on my reputation with my 11 year employer as a reference, it is a good thing I am not vindictive because I could have had BOLI fine them for it especially with a witness, but like I said I do not believe it was someone authorized to speak on behalf of the company, so I let it go. What I find very sad at this point in this game is the fact that anytime a prospective customer searches OBL’s name, this article and all the comments are going to come up, I am sure professional people like seeing the word “butt hurt” from the people they are trusting with their products, have you informed OBL that you are making these comment? Are you aware you are keeping this article at the top of the search list? You may want to “think outside the box” before you continue on with this.

Sounds like you are describing the reasons companies often strive to avoid such problematic name recognition.  "Continue on with this" - what is that supposed to mean?"  I see your knowledge of how Internet ranking is vague at best; just understand that we don't decide what Google or Yahoo's search results are.  Because a company's name is in question they were given ample opportunity to represent themselves, dispute the findings of OSHA, etc.,  but they elected to send a brief paragraph and that I had to wait four days for.    


February 26, 2011 2:16 am (Pacific time)

Wow talk about blowing things way out of portion. OBL is NOT killing their employees!! Just like with any other newer businesses finding their grounds problems/issues are bound to arise and how the company resolves theses issues should mean more than the mistakes made along the way!! From first hand experience I can honestly say the company over looked a few things but have sense taken the proper steps to eliminate these issues as quickly AND efficiently as possible! ( Including paying for led tests to be done on family members) I will stand up for this company because most of you that commented seem more butt hurt about losing your jobs or just don't know what your talking about!


OBL supporter February 26, 2011 12:36 am (Pacific time)

This company has built itself from the ground up and is one of the few of its kind. Its truly amazing how successful this small company has been especially with the economy being the way it is. Its completely unrealistic to expect a new business to be flawless. Instead of having tunnel vision and only focusing on important issues the OBL has experienced you just step back and look at the bigger picture. It's obvious, in my opinion, that company has taken the proper steps necessary to protect their employees and are driven to eliminate these issues completely. ( ..Rome wasn't built in a day you know)


Salemite February 26, 2011 8:51 pm (Pacific time)

Well Salemgirl, I have not seen anyone attacking the staff of OBL, they did not make the choice to poison themselves and obviously have not had leadership that would help them do their job better and avoid serious injury and/or exposure. The person that is managing the company on site has that responsibility, could you imagine if every company on Oregon operated like this? Do you have any idea what kinds of hazardous material are present at the canneries? If these places were not managed and the people not taught then we would have chemical leaks and dead people all over the place. When you hire people to do a job it is your responsibility to guide them and know the rules, you must also run a business with proper permits for a reason, such as ventilation so you do not kill your employees. When you make the choice to run amok like the rules do not apply to you, then you invite danger. I am thankful that OSHA has put an end to this behavior, I am sure there are some pretty good folks working for OBL, be happy that they are going to work in a much safer environment now, they are not paying the fine, the owner is


salemgirl February 26, 2011 1:38 am (Pacific time)

You know what blows my mind??? That there are so many of you that have nothing better to do with your lives than to post a whole lot of b.s.!!! OBL is a company that is full of an amazing staff and should be recognized for their hard work. You people should get your facts straight all your doing is making fools of yourselves lol!


Ex-employee February 24, 2011 2:48 pm (Pacific time)

When I was hired to work for this company one of my references had told them that my son had died of cancer one year before, there was a staff meeting held before I started and my life story was relayed to the staff, had I known that, I would have gone and begged my previous employer for my job back, I had worked there for 11 years and quit to work for this company, closer to home, I can honestly say the biggest mistake I have ever made. The day I walked in the door I was treated as if I had the plague, it was horrible, after a couple of months I made friends with one other employee who did not have children, the rest never treated me like a "normal" person, I was doomed from the day I walked in the door. I was informed that all employees had been told my life story after about two months of wondering why they all hated me. Thankfully I have heard about the lead poisoning and I have been tested, I am less the 10, so it is all good. I am a little peeved that SAIF will not pay for the test though, when you expose your employees like this you should be required to pay to make sure they are ok.


Tom February 24, 2011 1:42 pm (Pacific time)

Have any of you actually looked at the referenced OR-OSHA Report included with this “story”?

Concerning Oregon Ballistic Laboratories LLC; other than lack of written documents and not having a safety meeting, the only actual danger to employees cited by this report was from a modified industrial truck (fork lift). Nothing to indicate that any employees were ever exposed to a hazardous level of lead!

And, nothing to support the author’s allegation that OR-OSHA has fined Oregon Ballistic Laboratories LLC for “lead poisoning of employees”.

Now, I have no knowledge of what Oregon Ballistic Laboratories LLC has or has not done. But this story is just weak, full of holes and really should not even be considered “news”. Maybe the author should take a few more journalism classes.

For you other people who left comments: I met a Martian and his pregnant human wife yesterday who are willing to let me and a couple of other people in on a deal to purchase a bridge.....

Editor: Sure doesn't sound like you give two hoots about the fact that OSHA did indeed find this company's practices dangerous, or the fact that people are sick because of Oregon Ballistics Laboratories LLC and their lifespans are likely affected.  

Finding: "The employee(sic) are exposed to lead contamination while operating testing equipment and during testing". 

You must not have clicked the link to see the original OSHA report? http://pdfcast.org/pdf/obl-llc.  I can't teach you how to read a news story, that is not my responsibility.  Not only is this story fair and accurate (contamination means poisoning) but the company was contacted for comment and reaction before this was ever published.  Of course I have no doubt that you are the company, why not just send an email?  Why not just answer the questions that were sent to you?  They are even included with this article just to make sure that it is clear that we asked questions and Oregon Ballistics Laboratories LLC chose not to answer them.  This company had a chance to comment, I will contact OSHA to determine how much of a fine was levied.  Some have suggested shoddy inspection practices from the city of Salem, but suggesting that this company was found in violation of this number of violations and not fined is a stretch.    


Justin Morris February 23, 2011 6:10 pm (Pacific time)

I did see that they are a independent testing facility and a randd company. also are ran by the same guy. they have different addresses but its in the same building Yikes. Do not use this company they will steal your ideas and kill their employees with lead poisoning


Kathy Stanley February 23, 2011 6:05 pm (Pacific time)

Dear god!!!!!!! I feel so sorry for the employees that work at this place. I could not imagine working in a place that will poison you and then have the General manager go on the news and say "we hold the health and safety of their employees as a matter of the utmost seriousness." This is a very sad. If i was the employee that was poisoned I would immediately go and talk to a lawyer and make sure you get compensated for this. Mr. Harvey, If you really care about your employees health then why are you killing them to make a dollar? You should answer the questions asked of you or are you hiding something? Probably more poisoned employees!!


Jeff dawson February 23, 2011 5:44 pm (Pacific time)

Did anyone else read that they are a independent testing lab but they also are a research and development company. how does that work? I would never send anything to them for testing they will probably reverse engineer it and steal it. You cannot be a Independant test lab when you have a RandD company as the sister company. And the same guy runs them both. HA HA sounds like a scam to me.


George Klophinstein February 23, 2011 5:40 pm (Pacific time)

Why is this company still operating??? Did someone get paid off to look the other way? Thats what it sounds like to me. this company is a disgrace and should not be allowed to continue to operate this just shows how crooked our government is. give them some money or something they want and they will look the other way. You might receive a fine but you will still be allowed to operate and poison people.


brandon February 23, 2011 5:28 pm (Pacific time)

How is this company still able to operate? This blows my mind. You can poison people have OHSA come in and all that happens is a fine???? wow is this really what this world has come down too?


Salemite February 23, 2011 4:10 pm (Pacific time)

This is too bad, I hope the employee who was poisoned is compensated as much as a person who has had their organs damaged can be compensated. As the other person posting said, if they followed all the rules then they would not be in trouble. In my opionon the company should have answered the questions presented to them, by not defending themselves at all it makes them seem very arrogant, very sad. My prayers to the employee who was poisoned.


Tom Smith February 23, 2011 1:41 pm (Pacific time)

Why Did Mr. Harvey not answer the questions presented to him? Also if your companies comply with all applicable State and Federal regulations then you never would have been fined by OHSA for not being in compliance. Oregon Ballistic labs sounds like a very dangerous place that needs tight regulations. They already ruined one of there employees lives. Lets make sure they DO NOT RUIN ANOTHER MR. Tom Smith


Anonymous February 23, 2011 12:59 pm (Pacific time)

Great another company that cares more about their bottom line than the employees. Mr. Harvey If you really "hold the health and safety of their employees as a matter of the utmost seriousness" This would have never happened and neither would the other infractions that OHSA fined you for. What a horrible company. I am glad no one was killed by this lead but its already too late for one employee.

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