Two years ago a Washington state foundry worker fell into a tub of molten steel and sustained injuries that resulted in the loss of a leg and arm. Then, only a few months following this tragic incident, another Washington worker suffered severe burns at a galvanizing plant when he stepped into molten zinc. These cases, unfortunately, are only two of many incidents each year where metal workers suffer a work-related injury or occupational illness due to exposure to metal dust, fumes and other harmful substances.
In response to these workplace injuries – along with other health and safety hazards common among workers in the primary metals industry –the Department of Labor & Industries (L&I) has joined in a national campaign headed by OSHA to reduce serious injuries and enhance workplace safety across the industry. L&I officials estimate that approximately seventy businesses in Washington are in the primary metals industry.
In a statement released by the head of L&I’s Division of Occupational Safety and Health (DOSH), L&I Assistant Director Michael Silverstein offered the following remarks:
“Men and women working in foundries and other jobs where metal is cast or refined face several significant hazards, including exposure to lead and dangerous chemicals, extreme noise and heat, as well as injuries from the machinery and materials being used. With this special emphasis, L&I hopes to reduce the risks these workers face.”
As part of this new worker safety initiative, L&I has created a web page specifically devoted to reducing workplace hazards in the metals industry; the page also provides training materials and other relevant resources. Washington workers and employers are encouraged to visit the site here: www.PrimaryMetals.Lni.wa.gov.
The new workplace safety campaign also includes a mailing of informational literature to nearly seventy businesses in Washington that fall within the primary metals category. For those interested in seeing images of two serious workplace injuries caused by to molten metal, L&I has also put together a slideshow (viewer discretion advised). Finally, Washington L&I plans to expand enforcement inspections throughout the state.
The federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) launched a nationwide program to protect metal workers last year. Officials stated that due to the hazards of this workplace, workers in the metal industry have an injury and fatality rate exceeding many other industrial jobs. This trend, unfortunately, holds true in Washington State as well.
Employers and managers who oversee worker safety are encouraged to request individualized help in addressing workplace hazards by contacting an L&I Safety and Health consultant, or by calling a local L&I office.
Broadcast version of L&I’s news release:
“The Department of Labor & Industries has joined a national effort to improve safety at smelters, foundries and other metal processing facilities that make up the state’s primary metals industry. The effort involves increased inspections, more safety and health outreach into the industry, including the development of a new L&I web page, with training materials and other information. Businesses in this industry should expect to receive a postcard in the mail announcing the effort.”