Wednesday June 19, 2013
OSHA Cites Oregon Ballistic Laboratories LLC Over Employee Lead ContaminationTim King Salem-News.com
Past and present employees of Oregon Ballistic Laboratories in Salem should be aware of lead poisoning problems revealed by OSHA.
(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.
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.
Oregon Ballistics Laboratories LLC handles government contracts.
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.
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.
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:
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.
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.
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:
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."
Tim King: Salem-News.com Editor and Writer
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