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Nine employees of Piqua Champion Foundry Inc. suffered exposure to dangerous levels of silica dust, respiratory hazards and unsafe work conditions while grinding castings and relining a furnace, said officials at the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).

As a result the Piqua, OH-based company is now facing $57,140 in fines for 20, including seven repeat and 13 serious, safety violations. Silica exposure can cause silicosis, an irreversible lung disease, and other serious health hazards.

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“Occupational exposure to silica dust often occurs as part of common workplace tasks in foundries where operations can result in workers inhaling small crystalline silica particles in the air,” said Bill Wilkerson, OSHA’s area director in Cincinnati. “Piqua Champion Foundry has a responsibility to give employees the tools and training they need to protect themselves from this debilitating, but common danger. Piqua has repeatedly failed to keep its workers safe, and that is unacceptable.”

Most of the repeat citations were for failing to meet OSHA’s respiratory protection standards. During the inspection, OSHA found Piqua did not provide medical evaluations for employees using respirators, failed to monitor supplied breathing air for carbon monoxide and did not mark respirators properly that needed new filters. The company also received citations for repeatedly failing to develop machine-specific procedures for its electric furnace and mold machines to ensure workers did not face amputation or death when servicing and maintaining machines in use and for not communicating hazards properly during forklift training.

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OSHA previously inspected the facility in 2009 and found similar violations. OSHA issues repeat violations if an employer faced previous citations for the same or a similar violation of any standard, regulation, rule or order at any other facility in federal enforcement states within the last five years.

Serious violations were for exposing workers to silica over the permissible exposure limit for a work shift; failure to implement controls to reduce exposure; and to train workers on silica hazards. Inhalation of small crystalline silica particles puts workers at risk for silicosis, lung cancer, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and kidney disease. Employers can protect workers from dangerous silica dust by providing engineering controls, respiratory protection, training for workers and monitoring exposure levels. Citations were also for additional violations of OSHA’s respiratory protection standards.

An OSHA violation is serious if death or serious physical harm could result from a hazard an employer knew or should have known exists.

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