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Workers exposed to hazardous chemical at CT lab: feds say


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Phoenix Environmental Laboratories Inc. has been fined over $900,000 after it was accused of exposing workers to a hazardous chemical in Manchester, Connecticut, federal officials said.

AP

Workers at an environmental lab in Connecticut reported feeling dizzy and unsteady before learning they were exposed to a hazardous chemical, federal officials said.

Now the company must pay roughly $900,000 in fines.

The Phoenix Environmental Laboratories is accused of exposing workers to methylene chloride — “a highly hazardous chemical and a workplace carcinogen” — at a lab in Manchester, the U.S. Department of Labor said in a Sept. 16 news release.

The company tests soils, water, sludge, solids and air. It did not immediately respond to McClatchy News’ request for comment as of Friday, Sept. 16.

Workers filed complaints to management for several months that they felt dizzy, light-headed and unsteady while walking, according to the news release, in addition to faulty ventilation systems.

But the company didn’t take the effective measures to fix the dangerous work conditions, federal officials said.

Recurring leaks from equipment, poor ventilation and the use of methylene chloride in analyzing environmental samples exposed employees to the chemical, officials said.

The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration cited the company for 17 violations, costing $907,253 in penalties.

A federal investigation by OSHA found the Phoenix Environmental Laboratories failed to ensure workers weren’t overexposed to methylene chloride, and the lab did not “perform initial exposure monitoring.”

Investigators also discovered the company failed to provide adequate ventilation for employees working around the chemical, and it didn’t have procedures in place to detect, contain or dispose of the leaking chemical, officials said.

Additionally, the company is accused of not providing employees with adequate skin, eye and face protection from the chemical or other solvents, the release says.

And more hazards were discovered in the lab, including “exposure to flammable vapors, improper storage, unsafe handling and transfer of flammable chemicals, lack of suitable quick-drenching eye facilities where corrosives were used and several electrical violations.”

The company has 15 days to comply, request an informal conference or contest OSHA’s findings before a health review commission.

“Phoenix Environmental Laboratories knew of its employees’ exposure to a highly hazardous and carcinogenic chemical, yet chose to ignore their complaints and failed to take effective corrective action,” said OSHA Area Director Dale Varney in Hartford, Connecticut.

Helena Wegner is a McClatchy National Real-Time Reporter covering the state of Washington and the western region. She’s a journalism graduate from Arizona State University’s Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication. She’s based in Phoenix.





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