Wisconsin Steel Pipe Company Cited for 13 Health & Safety Violations
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) recently proposed fines totaling $110,458 on a Wisconsin steel pipe manufacturer for alleged safety and health violations. OSHA investigators found evidence that employees were exposed to excessive levels of hexavalent chromium, which is known to cause cancer, and were vulnerable to struck-by injuries.
The company, Felker Brothers Corp., is a leading manufacturer of stainless steel piping products and fabricated piping systems. They serve industries throughout the United States and worldwide, and have production facilities in both Wisconsin and Kentucky.
According to an OSHA report, OSHA received a complaint about the Marshfield facility in Wisconsin and went out to investigate. They found that one grinder operator had been exposed to hexavalent chromium at levels 1.78 percent higher than the permissible exposure limit.
Hexavalent chromium, also called “chromium-6,” was the chemical made famous in the film “Erin Brockovich.” It is a toxic form of the element chromium, man-made and widely used in many industries including stainless steel production, electroplating, leather tanning, textile manufacturing, and wood preservation. It helps increase the durability of products, as it resists corrosion and contributes to hardness.
Employees may be exposed to chromium-6 by inhaling it, ingesting it through food and/or water, or by direct contact with the skin. The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) considers hexavalent chromium to be a well-established carcinogen associated with lung, nasal, and sinus cancer.
“Welding and hot work on stainless steel, high chrome alloys, and chrome-coated metal is one of the most common ways workers are exposed to hexavalent chromium,” said OSHA Area Director Chad Greenwood. “Exposure can cause respiratory tract, skin, and eye irritation. Companies must monitor their facilities to ensure workplace health and safety procedures are effective.”
OSHA estimates that 558,000 workers are potentially exposed to chromium-6 in the U.S.