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Arsenic coated workers’ desks, lockers and food packaging at Georgia facility, feds say

A wood chemical treatment center in Georgia faces penalties from federal officials after an investigation found that levels of arsenic in the facility were too high, a news release from the Department of Labor said.

Arch Wood Protection in Conley and its maintenance contractor, Mullins Mechanical & Welding in Carrollton, were cited for violations regarding arsenic exposure and failure to follow or enforce decontamination procedures for workers, according to the May 16 release.

Workers at Arch Wood Protection were exposed to arsenic levels roughly 20 times the allowed exposure limit, according to the release. Hazardous “inorganic” arsenic dust coated desks, food packaging, lockers, refrigerators and the insides of workers’ respirators, the DOL said.

A screening from the Georgia Poison Center found that the workers had “elevated levels of arsenic,” according to the release.

McClatchy News reached out to Arch Wood Protection for comment and was awaiting a response.

The facility was also cited for the following violations:

  • “Not requiring employees (to use) respirators to remove facial hair that might prevent a proper fit and seal.”

  • “Allowing workers to enter regulated areas without a respirator.”

  • “Not requiring contractors to change clothing and decontaminate properly at the end of their shifts.”

  • “Allowing pallets of materials to block emergency eyewash and shower stations.”

  • “Not providing adequate eye protection for workers handling inorganic arsenic acid samples.”

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration proposed $124,780 in fines for the violations, according to the release.

Mullins Mechanical & Welding, which worked as a facility maintenance contractor, faces a $53,574 fine after being cited for not providing and ensuring employees followed decontamination procedures after working in contaminated areas, according to prosecutors.

McClatchy News reached out to Mullins Mechanical & Welding for comment and was awaiting a response.

“Both of these companies have an obligation to protect their employees from exposure to hazardous chemicals,” OSHA Area Director Joshua Turner said in the release. “Sadly, neither met those obligations and needlessly exposed workers to potentially life-changing dangers.”

Arch Wood Protection is contesting the findings of the investigation before OSHA, according to the release.

Conley is about 10 miles south of Atlanta.

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