Wichita, KS – Air Sampling and PPE violations found at Wichita’s largest employer have generated fines of close to $200,000 for Spirit Aerosystems. OSHA officials allege that the Kansas aircraft manufacturer exposed employees to carcinogenic hazards, failed to conduct periodic air monitoring, and failed to ensure employees were wearing effective equipment that would have protected them from dangerous exposure.
Spirit Aerosystems Inc faces penalties of $193,218 for six violations: two repeated and four serious, including allegations that Spirit failed to monitor levels of the carcinogenic substance after a prior documented violation. OSHA claims that painters at the manufacturing facility were exposed to up to 44 times the permissible exposure level of airborne chromium concentration.
Federal workplace safety inspectors documented failures to implement “feasible engineering controls” which would limit Spirit Aerosystem workers’ exposure to carcinogenic hexavalent chromium during aircraft painting and sanding. Additionally, OSHA found a lack of periodic monitoring or air sampling to detect exposure and respiratory hazards.
Spirit Aerosystems is also alleged to have failed to establish protocols to ensure that employees removed contaminated personal protective equipment (PPE) and clothing before exiting affected work areas and that they failed to ensure that worker’s respirators fit properly. OSHA claims that some workers’ facial hair prevented their respirators from making a safe and effective seal.
By failing to prevent exposure to hexavalent chromium during aircraft painting and sanding, OSHA determined that Spirit Aerosystems allowed the accumulation of this carcinogen on surfaces throughout the facility. According to OSHA’s Wichita-Area Acting Office Director, “Inhaling excessive levels of hexavalent chromium can cause asthma, and damage to the kidneys, liver, and respiratory system…It is important for employers to take the appropriate steps necessary to prevent excessive exposure.”
According to OSHA, hexavalent chromium compounds are used as pigments or anti-corrosive agent in paints and other products. Also, they can be used to electroplate chromium onto metal parts. Employees can be exposed to this carcinogen during hot work activities like welding stainless steel or other alloy steels that contain chromium.
In response to these allegations, Spirit made a statement that the company “disputes the accuracy of some of OSHA’s findings,” and will meet with OSHA to discuss the citations and possibility of reduction in the associated penalties.