OSHA Hits Recycling Plant With Fines As Industry Comes Under Growing Scrutiny

OSHA charges that an Illinois recycling company overexposed workers to lead and cadmium and violated several of the agency’s standards, with proposed fines totaling $114,800 — action that comes as worker advocacy groups call attention to safety and health issues in the recycling industry in general, with chemical exposures from breaking down electronics a central concern.

Officials cited Kuusakoski US LLC after inspectors determined the firm’s Plainville, IL, headquarters failed to implement engineering controls and monitor employee exposure to lead and cadmium, putting them at high risk for long-term damage to the central nervous, urinary, blood and reproductive systems. Alleged overexposures involved workers separating circuit boards, OSHA said.

A coalition of worker health advocates and NIOSH have also voiced concern about lead transference from electronics recycling into workers’ homes.

OSHA also cited the company for allegedly: failing to train workers on lead, cadmium and chemical hazards; not implementing a respiratory protection program; not having a hearing conservation program; failing to provide protective clothing; not providing showers or separate lunch facility to prevent lead contamination and ingestion; and lacking housekeeping procedures to remove lead and prevent employee exposure.

The company on Sept. 28 received 26 health citations classified as serious.

“Lead and cadmium can cause irreversible health damage, but Kuusakoski’s compliance programs lack information on controlling exposure levels and protecting workers through common-sense safety measures like wearing respirators and protective clothing,” said Kathy Webb, OSHA’s area director in Calumet City, in a statement Wednesday (Sept. 30). “The company must protect the long-term health of employees exposed to these dangerous metals.”

A person answering the phone at Kuusakoski said the company has no comment. — Christopher Cole (ccole@iwpnews.com)