Vancouver, Wash.-based fabricator, Wall to Wall Tile & Stone, was cited and fined $261,000 for multiple workplace violations. The citations and subsequent fines were for failing to protect workers from exposure to silica dust and other health hazards associated with stone slab grinding.
The employer was cited for several violations in November 2014. When the Department of Labor & Industries (L&I) performed a follow-up inspection they found that the previously cited violations had not been corrected, resulting in “failure to abate” serious citations and fines. Serious violations are cited for hazards where there’s a possibility of serious injury or death.
Serious violations that the company had previously been cited for but had not corrected included:
- Failing to use feasible controls to reduce employee exposure to silica dust — $40,500.
- Not developing a written respiratory protection program to protect employees from inhaling silica dust — $40,500.
- Failing to provide fit testing for workers required to wear full-face respirators — $40,500.
- Not providing effective training for employees who wear full-face respirators — $40,500.
- Not providing noise and hearing protection training to affected employees — $22,500.
- Not providing annual hearing tests for workers exposed to excess noise — $22,500.
- Failing to develop, implement and maintain a written Chemical Hazard Communication Program for employees using a variety of chemicals — $40,500.
An L&I inspection found that employees were exposed to silica quartz dust at more than three (3.4) times the permissible limit during stone slab grinding operations. Breathing in silica dust can cause silicosis, as well as lung cancer, pulmonary tuberculosis and other airway diseases.
In addition, L&I cited the company for two serious violations that were not associated with the 2014 inspection. One citation was given for not ensuring that employees who wear full-face respirators don’t have facial hair. Respirators may not seal properly on workers with beards or other facial hair. The company was also cited for not providing appropriate respirators for employees grinding stone slabs. Each violation has a penalty of $4,050.
General violations, the lowest-level citation, are those involving safety issues where there is no possibility of serious injury or death. Wall to Wall Tile & Stone was cited for two “failure to abate” general violations. These violations were for not providing medical evaluations for employees who wear full-face respirators, and for not creating a list of chemicals used in the workplace. For each of these violations the company received a penalty of $2,700.
The employer had 15 days to appeal the citation. Penalty money paid as a result of a citation is placed in the workers’ compensation supplemental pension fund, helping workers and families of those who have died on the job.