Elkhart Lake foundry cited by OSHA after worker found unresponsive in bathroom

ELKHART LAKE (WITI) -- A 55-year-old worker was found unresponsive in a restroom at Bremer Manufacturing Co. Inc. on May 6th, and later died. The worker, who had worked at the Elkhart Lake foundry for the past 38 years, worked with resin-containing isocyanates on the sand molding line. Following an inspection, the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration found that the company failed to train workers on the physical and health hazards of chemicals in the workplace. OSHA has cited the company for one willful, one repeat and one serious health violation.

“This inspection focused on employees who work with hazardous chemicals including a resin-containing isocyanates, which can cause employee sensitization. Isocyanates can cause chest tightness, trouble breathing and irritation to the lungs, eyes, nose, throat and skin. Even when exposure limits are below permissible levels, workers can experience health consequences, especially if they have other health risks and are exposed to chemicals on a routine basis,” said Robert Bonack, OSHA’s area director in Appleton. “Employers have a responsibility to train workers on the physical and health hazards of working with chemicals.”

OSHA cited one willful violation for failing to train workers in chemical hazards, as outlined under the National Emphasis Program for Occupational Exposure to Isocyanates. Isocyanates are the raw materials that make up all polyurethane products. Jobs that may involve exposure to isocyanates include painting, foam-blowing and the manufacture of many polyurethane products, such as chemicals, insulation materials, surface coatings and adhesives. A willful violation is one committed with intentional, knowing or voluntary disregard for the law’s requirement, or with plain indifference to employee safety and health.

A repeat violation was cited for failure to train employees, who were assigned to work with formaldehyde, on the chemical’s physical and health hazards. The company was previously cited for this violation in 2010 at the same facility. A repeat violation exists when an employer previously has been cited for the same or a similar violation of a standard, regulation, rule or order at any other facility in federal enforcement states within the last five years.

The company also failed to establish a written respiratory protection program, which is a serious violation of OSHA standards. A serious violation occurs when there is a substantial probability that death or serious physical harm could result from a hazard about which the employer knew or should have known.

OSHA has proposed fines of $81,900.

Bremer Manufacturing Co., an aluminum castings manufacturer, employs about 100 workers and 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.

To ask questions, obtain compliance assistance, file a complaint or report workplace hospitalizations, fatalities or situations posing imminent danger to workers, the public should call OSHA’s toll-free hotline at 800-321-OSHA (6742) or the agency’s Appleton Area Office at 920-734-4521.

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. For more information, visit http://www.osha.gov.