Injured workers: Sulfuric acid exposure leads to OSHA citations
Willfully exposing workers to life-threatening hazards in the workplace is unacceptable. Nevertheless, many companies in Colorado and other states continue to disregard basic health and safety procedures. When employers allow the lives of workers to be put on the line, even after injured workers have lost their lives, it is clear that their priorities lie elsewhere.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration recently responded to a complaint about unsafe workplace conditions at a laundry company that focuses on the hotel industry’s laundering of fabrics. During the investigation, inspectors found several safety violations for which the company was cited after the death of a worker in 2011. None of these hazards had reportedly been addressed.
Most of the violations related to workers’ exposure to a solution containing 50 percent sulfuric acid. It was determined that workers had no safe manner for exiting the facility. The exit route required employees to travel directly past about 14 barrels, each containing 55 gallons of this dangerous solution. Furthermore, although eyewash and shower facilities existed to quickly flush workers’ bodies or eyes in emergency cases of exposure, they were blocked from access. Other violations found involved lockout and tagout procedures that were not established, exposing employees to moving machine parts.
OSHA concluded that the lives of workers at this facility will continue to be at risk if prevention plans are not established. Injured workers in Colorado may be concerned about unexpected medical expenses and the absence of wages during the time of recuperation following an accident. They may find comfort in knowing that some level of financial relief is available through the workers’ compensation program. Medical expenses and lost wages are typically covered, and, in cases in which the injuries cause disabilities, addition compensation may be considered.