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Painting Contractor Cited for Falls, Lead

Thursday, May 22, 2014

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An Illinois restoration contractor with a history of safety violations faces a new tab of almost $160,000 for 25 alleged violations of federal workplace safety standards.

Fortune Painting Co. Inc. a/k/a Fortune Restoration, of Lincolnwood, has been newly cited for one willful, seven repeat, 14 serious, and three other-than-serious violations, according to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s May 12 announcement.

The citations include fall hazards, exposing workers to lead-based paint and chemicals, and a lack of administrative controls and training.   

Chicago house

The company has provided painting, tuckpointing and restoration services in the Chicago area since 1979. Fortune Painting's project portfolio includes work on the oldest existing home in Chicago, the Noble Seymour Crippen House (pictured).

OSHA said the company’s new repeat violations were similar to others for which it was cited for in 2008 and 2012. The contractor has been inspected 10 times since 2008; all but one inspection resulted in safety violations, according to a review of OSHA’s records.

The Chicago-area company plans to contest the violations, which carry $159,390 in fines.

The new case follows a November 2013 inspection conducted under the National Emphasis Program for Lead and a Local Emphasis Program for Fall Hazards, according to OSHA.

Copies of the health and safety violations issued by OSHA were provided by the agency.

Willful Infraction

According to OSHA, Fortune Painting failed to determine employee exposure to lead before directing workers to sand and scrape paint during a residential restoration project in Wilmette, IL.

That allegation led to the willful citation, which carries a $42,350 fine.

A willful violation is OSHA’s highest level of infraction—one committed with intentional, knowing or voluntary disregard for the law’s requirement, or with plain indifference to employee safety and health.

"Lead is one of the most common health hazards found in industry and is a leading cause of workplace illness,” said Angie Loftus, OSHA's area director for Chicago North in Des Plaines.

“Lead particles are easily transported from work sites on clothing and other materials, so taking precautions to prevent exposure is vitally important to the health of workers and their families.”

Seven Repeat Violations

The painting company was also hit with seven repeat citations while restoring the home.

Those violations, carrying $70,840 in penalty fines, involved OSHA’s respiratory protection standards. OSHA says the company failed to ensure that workers had properly fitted respirators to protect them from lead overexposure and to train them in respiratory use and procedures, OSHA said.

Other repeat violations allege dry sweeping of debris contaminated with lead-based paint; failing to provide work shoes or disposable coverlets; and lack of a clean changing area.

Lead hazards

Several repeat violations allege worker exposure to lead-based paint without proper safety protection, according to OSHA.

Another repeat violation alleges fall hazards. Inspectors observed unprotected painters working about 12 feet above the ground, according to the citation documents.

Falls are the leading cause of death in the construction industry. Last year, nearly 300 workers were fatally injured in construction-related falls nationwide, according to OSHA.

14 Serious Violations

The contractor was also accused of 14 serious violations, carrying $44,660 in fines.

The serious citations allege lack of:

  • Respiratory protection;
  • Personal protective equipment (such as safety glasses and clothing);
  • Training and administrative controls; and
  • Housekeeping practices.

A serious violation occurs when there is substantial probability of death or serious physical harm from a hazard about which the employer knew or should have known.

Three additional violations, classified as “other than serious,” allege failure to implement a lead exposure compliance program, improper use of electrical equipment, and failure to provide medical recommendations for each employee's ability to use a respirator.

Fines total $1,540 for those citations.

Company Responds

Fortune Painting Company owner Robert Fortune said in an interview this week that he “absolutely” planned to contest the violations.

“We’re going to use every means in the OSHA system to address this,” said Fortune, who once wrote about his company’s experiences with OSHA in Painting & Wallcovering Contractor (“Uh-Oh, OSHA Calling”).

Fortune Painting / PWC file photo

“We’re going to use every means in the OSHA system to address this,” said Robert Fortune, who once wrote about his company’s experiences with OSHA in Painting & Wallcovering Contractor (“Uh-Oh, OSHA Calling”).

Fortune said that about one-third of the new violations reflected circumstances in which “our company has to do better”; about one-third were “very aggressive”; and about one-third were “baseless.”

He specifically cited multiple citations for arsenic violations, which he said was “not something we face on a daily basis.”

“I’ve been in the business for 35 years, and I’m really scratching my head,” Fortune said. “I’ve never seen arsenic in paint.”

The company has provided painting, tuckpointing and restoration services in the Chicago area since 1979, according to its website.

Fortune Painting's project portfolio includes work on the oldest existing home in Chicago, the Noble Seymour Crippen House.


Tagged categories: Citations; Enforcement; Fall protection; Health and safety; Lead paint abatement; OSHA; Painting Contractors; Regulations

Comment from Catherine Brooks, (5/22/2014, 11:52 AM)

The lack of proper lead paint waste containment seems also a violation of EPA's RRP laws protecting building occupants. This company cited additionally for these violations would send the message to contractors that RRP laws are also being monitored. EPA inspectors could have been called to tag team with OSHA inspectors. The article does address the impact of lack of worker protection with lead paint on their families.

Comment from Tom Schwerdt, (5/22/2014, 12:12 PM)

Good point, Catherine. Anytime OSHA finds a lead issue in residential, they should be notifying the EPA RRP folks.

Comment from JP Brake, (5/22/2014, 12:46 PM)

This OSHA regulation has been on the books since 1993. If OSHA had been actively enforcing the regulation there would be no need for the EPA RRP Regulation. If the OSHA lead in construction Standards are met, then there is no need for additional regulatory requirements. But, OSHA and EPA seldom set boots on private residential properties for routine inspections.

Comment from Karl Kardel, (5/23/2014, 12:12 PM)

We for 20 years backed off bidding all wood old buildings. With lead regs. at last fully in place, we bid now. result: 1 in 20 accepted. People who make noise about doing it right, don't end up wanting the cost out of their pockets. OSHA here goes after licensed contractors who flout the regs, or minor problems and let the mass of unlicensed and often illegals alone. High standards protect good contractors but only if the regs. are enforced across all segments of the market. The largest part are illegal unlicensed performers out here. Karl Kardel Oakland CA

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