For several months, employees at a Manchester, Connecticut environmental laboratory complained to management about faulty ventilation systems and about symptoms related to exposure to ethylene chloride, a highly hazardous chemical, according to federal workplace safety officials.
Despite knowledge of these employee complaints, management at Phoenix Environmental Laboratories Inc. took few effective measures to monitor and address the exposures and provide effective safeguards for its employees, the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has alleged.
As a result, OSHA has now cited Phoenix Environmental Laboratories for six willful and serious violations and proposed a total of $907,253 in penalties.
According to OSHA, the symptoms reported by employees included dizziness, light-headedness, headaches and unsteady walking – all of which can be caused by exposure to methylene chloride. OSHA maintains that employees sustained exposures to methylene chloride due to inadequate ventilation and recurring leaks from equipment, plus the use of methylene chloride in analyzing environmental samples,
Phoenix Environmental Laboratories specializes in analysis and testing of water, soil, sludge, air and solid samplings.
OSHA’s inspection found that Phoenix Environmental Laboratories Inc. failed to ensure employees were not overexposed to methylene chloride, safely dispose of leaking methylene chloride, or provide employees with personal protection from methylene chloride and other solvents, among other responsibilities.
“Phoenix Environmental Laboratories knew of its employees’ exposure to a highly hazardous and carcinogenic chemical, yet chose to ignore their complaints and failed to take effective corrective action,” said OSHA Area Director Dale Varney in Hartford.
OSHA said it also uncovered additional hazards during the inspection.
Phoenix Laboratories has 15 business days to comply, request an informal conference with OSHA’s area director, or contest the findings before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.
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