In response to worker complaints, OSHA has cited Manafort Brothers Inc., of Plainville, Conn., for two willful and six serious violations of exposing workers to high levels of mercury during the demolition of a mercury boiler in Portsmouth, New Hampshire.
According to OSHA, on May 30, 2017, Manafort Brothers workers were dismantling the mercury boiler while torch cutting, tapping and draining the mercury boiler's piping and related equipment. Workers received no safety training on how to dismantle the equipment in a confined area and were not fitted with required full face air purifying respirators and exposed to 17 times the permissible exposure to chlorine/mercury vapor.
In addition, OSHA alleges that Manafort Brothers did not evaluate the respirator program’s effectiveness in protecting workers against exposures and did not consult with the employees to identify and correct any respirator problems. According to the OSHA report, only one acceptable respirator was available on the site.
Manafort Brothers was also cited for not providing protective clothing, instead requiring workers to wear overalls that were not designed to protect against contact with mercury and were prone to tear and burn holes from hot work activities. Additional mercury exposure was tolerated when workers were allowed to consume beverages from containers and cups which could contain toxic materials while on site.
“These hazards were certainly preventable,” OSHA’s New Hampshire Area Director Rosemarie O. Cole said in the statement.
Manafort Brothers ceased operations at the site after being notified by OSHA and restarted in September after implementing additional controls and worker training. The company intends to challenge the OSHA citations, saying their own independent medical experts have advised the workers they do not now have or will develop any negative health issues due to their earlier exposure.
Mercury poisoning can cause kidney damage, personality changes, deafness, tremors, memory loss, vision impairment, and severely harm the body's nervous system.