Wall to Wall Tile & Stone of Vancouver, Wash. has been fined $261,000 for failing to protect workers from exposure to silica dust and other health hazards associated with stone slab grinding.
The Department of Labor & Industries (L&I) cited the employer for multiple instances of “failure to abate” serious violations after a follow-up inspection found that the employer had not corrected violations that it was cited for in November 2014.
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. Over time, breathing in silica dust can cause silicosis (a disabling lung disease), as well as lung cancer, pulmonary tuberculosis and airway diseases.
The employer was cited for seven “failure to abate” serious violations. These are violations that the company had been previously cited for but had not corrected, including:
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.
Wall to Wall Tile & Stone was also cited for two “failure to abate” general violations, each with a penalty of $2,700. 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.
In addition, L&I cited the company for two serious violations that were not associated with the 2014 inspection. One of the citations was 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.
Serious violations are cited for hazards where there’s a possibility of serious injury or death. General violations are the lowest-level citation, involving safety issues where there is no possibility of serious injury or death.
The employer has 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.
For a copy of the citation, please contact L&I Public Affairs at 360-902-5413.
Photo credit: The Worlds of David Darling