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PA Bridge Painter Fined $459K

Thursday, January 31, 2013

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Allegations of extreme, repeated lead exposures and fall hazards have prompted federal regulators to slap a Pittsburgh-area industrial painter with dozens of health and safety violations and nearly $460,000 in fines.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration has issued 38 alleged violations—including 14 willful and 11 repeat—against Panthera Painting Inc., of Canonsburg, PA, for allegedly endangering employees performing abrasive blasting and repainting at bridges in Slatington, Harrisburg and Slatedale, PA.

The list of citations for violations includes excessive exposure to lead and lead dust and a variety of respiratory protection hazards, including one employee who tied a T-shirt over his face in lieu of an abrasive blasting hood.

George Wade Bridge

Many of the violations against Panthera Painting relate to abrasive blasting and repainting work on the George Wade Bridge in Harrisburg, PA.

The company did not respond Wednesday (Jan. 30) to a request for comment.

Severe Violator

The new infractions have placed Panthera Painting in OSHA's Severe Violators Enforcement Program, which mandates follow-up inspections for "recalcitrant" employers who commit repeated or severe violations.

In addition to the severity of the current citations, OSHA has inspected Panthera five times in the last five years; four inspections resulted in the issuance of serious citations.

"The employer's refusal to correct the hazards, along with its history of failing to correct hazards, demonstrates a clear resistance to worker safety and health and leaves workers vulnerable to potential illnesses and injuries from overexposure to lead and other hazards," said MaryAnn Garrahan, OSHA regional administrator in Philadelphia.

"Employers have a legal responsibility to provide workers with safe and healthful workplaces. Anything less is unacceptable."

Details of Panthera's OSHA record were unavailable Wednesday, as OSHA's enforcement database was temporarily down.

Willful Violations

The willful violations, with $365,750 in fines, include failing to properly protect workers from exposure to lead and provide fall protection. A willful violation—OSHA's highest level of infraction—is one committed with intentional, knowing or voluntary disregard for the law's requirements, or with plain indifference to worker safety and health.

Those violations include:

  • Allowing an employee to work on a bridge 85 feet over a river without appropriate fall protection, a violation for which the company was cited in December 2011 at the same site;
  • Excessive lead exposure to abrasive blasters;
  • Failing to have workers exposed to lead shower after a shift;
  • Lack of monitoring of employees exposed to excessive lead levels; and
  • Lack of respiratory protection and protective clothing for workers cleaning up dry expandable abrasives.

Repeat Violations

The repeat violations, with $63,294 in proposed penalties, include excessive exposure to lead and failure to:

  • Post warning signs in lead work areas;
  • Ensure workers showered at the end of each work shift;
  • Provide medical evaluations and fit tests for respirator users;
  • Notify employees of the results of lead monitoring;
  • Provide workers with initial medical surveillance for lead;
  • Provide blood tests every two months for employees exposed to lead; and
  • Certify the OSHA 300 injury and illness logs and monitor data in the lead compliance programs.

A repeat violation is issued when an employer has been cited for the same or a similar violation within five years. Similar violations were cited in 2011.

Serious Violations

Eleven serious violations with $30,800 in penalties allege:

  • Allowing workers to have and/or consume food in the areas of exessive lead exposure;
  • Failure to notify employees in writing of blood lead test results within five days;
  • Lack of guarding on electric wiring to prevent accidental contact; and
  • Ensuring that workers wore respirators while blasting with glass media or when exposed to lead in excess of permissible limits.

In addition, OSHA says Panthera Painting failed to:

  • Provide personal protective equipment for workers when blasting;
  • Provide a dead man switch on the blasting nozzle;
  • Provide the proper filter for the vacuum used for cleaning lead and cadmium; and
  • Train workers on the physical and health hazards of the chemical to which they were exposed.

A serious violation reflects substantial probability of death or serious injury from a hazard about which the employer knew or should have known.

Two other-than-serious violations allege failure to indicate when a filter had been changed on a compressor and failure to notify workers in writing of blood lead test results within five days.

The company has 15 business days from receipt of the citations and penalties to comply, request an informal conference with OSHA, or contest the findings.


Comment from Chuck Pease, (1/31/2013, 9:59 AM)

Sign me up. I want to work for these guys. What a joke!!!

Comment from otis wayne Hale, (1/31/2013, 10:07 AM)

Shut `em down. They give everyone in the business a bad name, and they will eventually kill someone; either a fast one from a fall, or slow one from lead poisoning, or both. What a disgrace of a company.

Comment from peter gibson, (1/31/2013, 10:39 AM)

Where are all the fancy standards here,that govern the coatings industry. This fool low balls the bids;that is how he gets the contracts.

Comment from Donald L Crusan, (1/31/2013, 10:52 AM)

Peter Gibson, Low ball bids hoping for the change orders and maybe, just maybe, a bit of gratuity!

Comment from Donald L Crusan, (1/31/2013, 11:10 AM)

Union or Non Union? I have always been a little leary of the Painter's Union when it comes to bridges. I would also believe that the 3rd Party Inspection Companies enforce safety, which is in well within our scope. Safety, Quality, & Integrity is our Mantra. I learned many years ago to not work on any DOT Projects, anything was acceptable and very, very little rejectable.

Comment from Martin Neumann, (1/31/2013, 12:39 PM)

Mr. Crusan, Don't you think you are generalizing a bit much about Union Painters? I run an industrial painting contracting firm that has been in business over 70 years. The IUPAT provides contractors with many resources for training employees, through programs in cooperation with union membership and owners/management. Also, I as an owner, would never cede my responsibility for safety to a 3rd party inspection firm. We have had instances where we have asked for safety training records of individuals who have come to inspect our work, per OSHA requirements, and several have had no identifiable training. So please don't cast aspersions with generalities about trustworthiness of IUPAT contractors while self aggrandizing the role of the 3rd party inspector as the be all, know all, arbiter of what is right on a job site. That door sir swings both ways.

Comment from paul orvosh, (1/31/2013, 1:39 PM)

Just wanted to thank Mr. Newmann on his response to Mr. Crusan. From a IUPAT member and Training Coordinator originally from Pa. and now in Florida. And - don't forget to mention the CAS certification - Certified Applicator Specialist- through the SSPC and IUPAT when talking about training. Another good training program for Industrial Painters for our members and employees of our contractors.

Comment from Luc N. Turenne, (1/31/2013, 6:20 PM)

The local DOT obviously has no pre-qualification criteria. Isn't that part of the problem. Budgets are tight, and many look the other way knowingly when the price is " cheap". Safe work practices come with associated costs. Let's not start the debate that working safe saves you money. There is cost savings compared to your peers. You cannot outbid someone that doesn't follow worker safety guidelines

Comment from Duane Mensch, (2/1/2013, 6:14 PM)

You should have been willing to pay someone what they are worth to keep you from this costly incident. " you get what you pay for".

Comment from Car F., (2/4/2013, 12:25 PM)

There are good and bad painters in both Union and non-Union sectors. Generally – not always - union companies through negotiated collective agreements will tend to pay better wages and have a better trained workforce. Better paid job attracts – generally – better trained people. Better trained people perform better and since they have a better paid job they will go the extra mile to do a good job and thus, protect the good paying job they have: it is self-interest that moves people to do things. On the other hand, poorly paid workers don’t have much at stake; a poorly-paid employment here is just as good as a poorly paid job there: don’t care for the outcome, very little at stake.

Comment from Chuck Pease, (2/4/2013, 11:06 PM)

Mr. Crusan, As a lifelong union coating applicator I have found gnerally union shops are better trained and safety conscience than open shops. It is typically the non union contractor that tries to cut corners. Low ball bidding get you just what you pay for low ball painters. I would have to agree with CarF that there are bad painters on both sides of the fence both union and non union. But on the average you get a better crafstman that came up thru the ranks from apprentice to jouneyman thru IPBAT.

Comment from Donald L Crusan, (2/6/2013, 9:58 AM)

Mr. Pease and all others who commented,ist of all I grew up in a USW Union home and I am still a storng advocate of Unionism. In fact, if there was a Union that could efficiently represent 3rd part Inspectors, I would have joined years ago and if I grew my business large enough, I would be signatory. Believe me, as one who promotes Safety, Quality, & Integrity, my ONLY Concern here was that the Bridge Painters (who in my mind have the most dangerous and most disrespected job in Contatruction) and the Union must promote more safety or standdown with a company like this who does not care about you. It just seems that too many needless accidents and violations have occured. After all, we expect this from the scabs, but I don't expect it form the Union. I have never once called you guys down on the Quality of Your Work or Your Professionalism. These days, I visit Non Union Shops that coat equipment destined for the Refineries, othe PetroChem Facilities and Nat Gas Well Pads. Believe me, I am seldom satisified the 1st go round. Too many shortcuts. I never expected the firestorm of comments, but I ma glad I was misinterptreted because it opened a very important and viable dialogue. On the subject of Unions for my trade, I have talked to the USW (Our present Non Union rates are at least twice what they have negotiated) and The Boilermakers who have discontinued the idea of organizing us. There are a few thousand of us who stay with equipment in the US thes days and I bet we now have a sound majority who would vote Union, if we found one that truly represented us. Respectfully, Don Crusan

Comment from Donald L Crusan, (2/6/2013, 10:01 AM)

Sorry for all of the typos.

Comment from Chuck Pease, (2/6/2013, 7:57 PM)

Thanks for your clarifications Don. No worries. Just a little too proud sometimes. But Dad always taught me Son if your gonna do something do it well!!! Trus crafsmanship is dying out with us old painters:) No younguns really want to get into the trades anymore. Sad really. But wgho can blame them anymore with the low ballers getting a lions share of the work. Was a time when qulity mattered in this country.Not its all about the bottom line.

Comment from Chuck Pease, (2/6/2013, 7:58 PM)

Wow need a spell checker

Comment from Donald L Crusan, (2/7/2013, 9:52 AM)

Hey Chuck, typos are the result of being passionate about what we believe in. And I agree with so much of waht you said and I must add that dem youngins don't have a passion for Quality Work. I seen the scabs come in years ago when I was a pup tinknocker in Local 12. Scabs working right beside us and at time our Union Signatory Companies have underbid a scab and provided the Safety, Quality, & Integrity. Thanks for the repsonse, that shows you True Professionalism. Mr Orvosh, Indiana County, PA area? The last name brings back Teenage Memories from the 1960s.

Comment from Car F., (2/7/2013, 12:32 PM)

Very thoughtful and intelligent comments from this forum from all of you, gentlemen. In my opinion, quality and pride on one’s craft goes closely associated with how we view the world. We live a culture of speedy, shortcut, fast, instant accomplishment and completion at a minimum costs. We even have shortened our language: September 11 is now “9/11”. Service 24 hours a day is “24/7”. Computer applications are “Apps”…and so on. Why would it be strange to find irresponsible business – union or non union – racing to the bottom?..it is the sign of our sad times. The Platonic ethics “we are what we do” is present in a negative way: “we are shoddy and neglectful because we do shoddy and neglectful work”. Leaders in religion, politics, business were at one time viewed as models of rectitude and honesty. Those leaders are discredited today to the point that we navigate this ship called life without compass, just following the latest fashion impudically broadcasted by ignorant presenters on insipid TV shows: crafts and trades are not exempted from those contemptuous practices. Respectfully. Car F.

Comment from Charles Williams, (2/7/2013, 8:11 PM)

Don't throw us young guys under the bus, I'm a Industrial painting contractor in my mid 20's. I started blasting inside of tanks when I was 13 using silica. After working for horrible contractors I bought some second hand equipment and bid work. I service a few waste water facilities, manufacturing plants and do shop work. Its not easy but I read to many articles like these! Im constently updating helmets and co2 monitors to keep my jobsites safe, effiecent and putting out quality work. Guys like these are hard to compete with, not that I am capable of doing bridges yet but it surely is in my plan. Luckly alot of facility managers do not over look my because of my age, they acknowledge my experience and give me a chance. Im currently lining tanks in this lovely illinois weather. If you older journeymen or contractors have any advice send it my way! Im always open for new ideas. I have a application for QP-7 on my desk.

Comment from paul orvosh, (2/8/2013, 12:52 PM)

To Mr. Crusan, Yes sir- that last name has a few union industrial painters associated with it from the Indiana/Westmoreland counties from the 60's-90's. Hope the name brings positive images for any work performed. If you are truly interested in bringing your inspection company and employees into a union. - I am positive- I would be able to have myself or someone from the IUPAT contact you. Paul Orvosh - NACE CIP with Peer #4790.

Comment from Car F., (2/8/2013, 2:11 PM)

Charles Williams, Sir: I have 35 years in the trade, experienced in all aspects of the trade: marine, highways, lead abatements, wall papering, cruise ships, residentail, commercial and insdustrial, automotyive as well, a bit of teaching here and there, national certifications, Red Seal, government jobs, private contractor for a while: credibility is the key. We were all young at one time,...and true enough, we often forget our humble and stumbling beginings. The only advice I can give you for whatever is worth, is to establish a good reputation among your clients, associates and workers. A good reputation is maintained by always being truthful and by treating your workers fairly: good training and effective supervision are your keys ingredients; your workers are your main asset. Disgruntled and unhappy workers will do shoddy workmanship, which will hurt your reputation and ultimately your bottom line........other than that, good luck.

Comment from Charles Williams, (2/8/2013, 8:09 PM)

Thanks Car F. you are completely right about treating workers good. Nearly all of my customers contact me before they call anyone else. Its a good feeling having repeat business at any facility. My paint reps. refer me to any job I am qualified for, again a good feeling. Bad days happen but keeping an eye on the future helps push thru the equipment break downs, weather delays and whatever else comes my way. The SSPC does an excellent job on setting standards and keeping this industry updated. Keep the heads held high, but dont forget to look down. Experience has a greater value than money, experience makes the money. Pitty those who cannot comply.

Comment from Donald L Crusan, (2/11/2013, 10:00 AM)

Mr Paul, at 67 it is a little too late to grow what I have. Coating is a very imortant part of what we do, but a very small part. Mechanical Integrity of welds, equipment, and other fabrications are primary. Metallurgy for the Non Metallurgist is also one of our undertakings. Seeing the poorly prepared weldments and the grief it gives you painters is why I follow and am interested in coating. I believe that in no way should a painter or paint shop have to rework or clean up dirty welds & stress risers that will cause your application to fail. I grew up on the Westmoreland side of the Kiski outside Saltsburg (Bell Twp), & graduated from Kiski Area in 1964.

Comment from paul orvosh, (2/11/2013, 11:31 AM)

Mr. Crusan, sorry about that-Saltsburg grads Brother Don grad 1963 Eugene grad 1965 and Jim/Jerry grad 67- All IUPAT members. If you played softball during the 70's in that area- same crew. Good chatting with someone from the old hometown area. I am SSPC and NACE member- living in Florida- working union. The scenario of previous topic is much too common in Florida also-Under trained or Untrained workers. I like the SSPC CAS - at least sets stardard for industrial applicators and if implemented by DOT's will help ensure a standard of contractor and worker doing bridge work. Thanks again - take care. Paul - Saltsburg class of 1974

Comment from john drengacz, (2/11/2013, 1:09 PM)

Shut them down and stop them from opening up under a different name. Better yet prosecute the owner Criminal Charges

Comment from Donald L Crusan, (2/12/2013, 7:44 AM)

Mr Paul, Kinda neat. Yep Don and I knew each other, Eugene a bit. I chose early on to take more of an interest in SSPC than NACE, even though I work in Petrochemical.

Comment from ron swanson, (2/21/2013, 6:11 PM)

SSPC audits would do great things to curb dangerous bridge painting contractors. NoQP1&2 no contractor to harm workers.

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