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US Labor Department’s OSHA cites Georgia-based contractor for health and safety violations following employee death due to chemical overexposure

STOCKBRIDGE, Ga. – The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration has cited Stockbridge-based Creative Multicare Inc. with five serious, two willful, and one other-than-serious violation following the February death of a worker who was exposed to excessive amounts of methylene chloride while using the chemical to remove paint from a bathtub surface. The employee, who was working in a small bathroom at the Lakeshore Apartments in Clarkston, was found dead on the floor.

The two willful violations include allowing employees to be highly overexposed to methylene chloride and for not requiring employees to use air-supplied respirators when handling the chemical. The OSHA standard requires that the employer shall ensure that no employee is exposed to an airborne concentration in excess of 25 parts of methylene chloride per million parts of air. Based on information provided by the medical examiner, OSHA calculated that the employee had been exposed to more than 47 times that amount. A subsequent inspection also found worker exposure to high rates of methylene chloride. 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.

The serious citations involve the company’s failure to provide its employees with proper personal protective equipment when handling chemicals; not conducting medical examinations for employees who wore half-mask and full-mask respirators; not providing initial and annual fit-testing for employees who wore half-mask and full-mask respirators; and not providing procedures and schedules for the cleaning and storing of respirators. Employees exposed to methylene chloride were not protected through the implementation of engineering controls. 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.

The other-than-serious violation was cited for failing to contact OSHA within 8 hours of the fatality. 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.

“Management had adequate knowledge of the dangers of exposure to methylene chloride but chose to ignore them, allowing employees to work without adequate protection. Tragically, this indifference to employees’ health and safety came at the cost of a worker’s life,” said William Fulcher, director of OSHA’s Atlanta-East Area Office.

Information on methylene chloride is available at http://www.osha.gov/SLTC/methylenechloride.

The company has additional offices in Tampa and Jacksonville, Fla. It provides carpet restoration, tile and counter resurfacing, and plumbing services for apartment and condominium residences.

Penalties total $162,000. Creative Multicare has 15 business days from receipt of the citations and proposed penalties to comply, request a conference with OSHA’s area director or contest the findings before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission. The site was inspected by OSHA’s Atlanta-East office, 2183 Northlake Parkway, Building 7, Suite 110, Tucker, Ga. 30084.

Under the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970, employers are responsible for providing safe and healthful workplaces for their employees. OSHA’s role is to ensure these conditions for America’s working men and women by setting and enforcing standards, and providing training, education and assistance.

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