Colin Brigham, CIH, CSP, CPE, CPEA VP, CSPHP, OSHA, Safety Management and Ergonomics Consultant ::::
Case Summary: An employee at a manufacturing plant and her husband brought a civil action suit against a subcontractor that had performed work at the manufacturing plant. They alleged that the work performed by the subcontractor caused her to sustain serious, painful, and permanent injuries due to airborne chemical exposures. The work involved cutting concrete flooring to install piping and sump pumps to collect and pump away subsurface water.
Expert Analysis: Water was leaking up through concrete flooring at the manufacturing plant where the plaintiff worked, causing slip/trip/fall, electrical, and potential atmospheric hazards. Management at the plant hired a contractor to remove the existing flooring, install a drainage system underneath the flooring, and pour new flooring. The contractor hired a subcontractor to cut and remove the existing flooring. This work was performed on two days during normal plant working hours. The room in which the work was being performed had high ceilings and a number of general and local exhaust systems. The manufacturing plant management directed that no additional ventilation needed to be provided. The cutting tool used a water supply system to minimize airborne dust generation and cool the cutting blade. The two workers cutting the floor who were likely to have the highest exposure to any hazardous airborne exposure did not complain of or exhibit any adverse health effects, nor did other employees working in the area. It was unlikely that the airborne chemical exposures generated during this work would lead to adverse health effects.
Case Result: The host employer directed that no additional ventilation was needed. The subcontractor used a cutting method normally used to reduce airborne chemical hazards. The subcontractor had additional local ventilation available if needed or requested, but it was not. There was no documentation or likelihood of overexposure. The case went to trial with a ruling in favor of the defendant subcontractor.
Colin Brigham, CIH, CSP, CPE, CPEA VP, CSPHP, is a OSHA, Safety Management and Ergonomics Consultant with DJS Associates and can be reached by phone at 215-659-2010
or via email at experts@forensicDJS.com.