Typically, industrial workers are at the greatest risk of falling victim to toxic exposure or some other work-related injury. Unlike an instantaneous accident, workers may not feel the dangerous effects of some chemicals until they are exposed to them over an extended period of time. As a recent incident in Illinois proves, there is a risk of toxic exposure in almost any type of workplace.
After a routine Occupational Safety and Health Administration inspection at gun range in Cook County, it was discovered that the workers were exposed to unsafe levels of lead, a highly toxic compound. One gun range instructor was exposed to lead 12.6 times the federal limit, while another employee was exposed to lead 7.2 times the federal limit. This toxic exposure could cause future health problems for both of these workers.
OSHA fines for the company could reach $111,000 for health violations, as well as not administering a proper hearing conservation program and not training workers in the use of protective equipment. Among the 28 health violations, the report cites that the gun range exposed workers to multiple hazardous materials, in addition to lead. The owner has since said that he plans on reviewing the citations and may contest them.
Long-term exposure to lead can lead to devastating conditions, which can lead to a serious workplace injury, illness or even death. Understandably, employers should do their best to minimize lead exposure in any way possible, and OSHA appears to be taking an active role in ensuring that happens. While it is comforting to know that workers' compensation benefits can provide the assistance the workers may need as they deal with the toxic exposure, they deserve the benefit of an employer that is willing to follow necessary safety guidelines.
Source: Chicago Tribune, "OSHA: Gun range exposed workers to lead," Ameet Sachdev, June 11, 2012