MANCHESTER, Conn. (WTNH) — The U.S. Office of Occupational Safety and Health Administration will fine a Manchester environmental laboratory $907,000 after authorities said it “willfully” exposed employees to carcinogens, according to an announcement Friday morning.
The penalty comes after employees at Phoenix Environmental Laboratories Inc. complained for several months to management that the ventilation system caused dizziness, light-headedness, headaches and unsteady walking, according to the U.S. Department of Labor. The symptoms can be caused by exposure to methylene chloride, which the department said is a “highly hazardous chemical.”
“Despite knowledge of these employee complaints that addressed health hazard concerns, management at Phoenix Environmental Laboratories Inc. took few effective measures to monitor and address the exposures and provide effective safeguards for its employees,” the announcement reads.
The case was opened on Feb. 28, according to OSHA records. A close conference happened on April 25, although OSHA still lists the case status as “open.”
The company faces six willful violations and 11 serious violations. In addition to the carcinogen exposure, employees claimed they were also exposed to flammable vapors, there were “several electrical violations,” and that the company didn’t properly store or safely handle and transfer flammable chemicals.
OSHA wrote that the company is alleged to have failed to:
- Ensure employees were not overexposed to methylene chloride
- Perform initial exposure monitoring and inform employees of monitoring results
- Determine employees’ exposure levels when the control methods were known to be inadequate
- Ensure adequate ventilation during procedures that exposed employees to methylene chloride
- Implement procedures to detect, contain and safely dispose of leaking methylene chloride
- Provide employees with adequate skin, eye and face protection from methylene chloride and other solvents
- Make medical surveillance available and provide medical exams to exposed employees
- Provide employees with information and training on the hazards associated with the chemicals they use
- Ensure that chemical fume hoods functioned properly and did not leak onto employees
The lab “offers high-quality testing of soils, water, sludge, solids,” along with other services, according to its website. It touts quick turnaround times and emergency responses.
The company said it is reviewing the penalty classification with OSHA, according to a statement sent to News 8 Friday afternoon.
“Phoenix recognizes that the safety regulations pertaining to the operation of an environmental laboratory are highly complex and has welcomed OSHA’s expertise in identifying where changes should be made,” the statement reads. “Phoenix immediately began making improvements that OSHA recommended while the inspection was in process and will continue to do so. Phoenix Environmental Laboratories considers employee safety to be of paramount importance and is committed to working with OSHA to assure that the company is in compliance with the standards pertaining to environmental laboratories.”