Eight employees at a factory that make shock absorbers have filed a claim for exposure to chemicals at work after suffering health problems as a result of exposure to hexavalent chromium.
The eight men, from Hartwell in Georgia, have all been diagnosed with nasal injuries and respiratory problems due to working at the Tenneco plant in Hart County where, it is alleged, a faulty ventilation system had been installed.
The claim for exposure to chemicals at work alleges that after the company installed new ventilation hoods and supposedly repaired the air ducts on the ventilation system in 2007, workers were exposed to unsafe levels of hexavalent chromium – a compound known to lead to cancer and other respiratory problems after long-term exposure.
The claim also adds that, in 2010, workers at the manufacturing plant reported a strong odour of hexavalent chromium and found cracked ventilation foods which were not channelling the fumes into the ventilation system. Further investigation revealed a collapsed air-shaft which also prevented the ventilation system from working effectively.
After complaints from employees, inspectors from the Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OHSA) performed air-quality tests in the factory in April 2011and discovered levels of hexavalent chromium well above those permitted in health and safety regulations.
In addition to unsafe exposure to chemicals in the workplace, the OSHA inspectors also found that Tenneco failed to provide their employees with personal protective equipment, did not provide emergency showers or eye-wash stations and failed to send employees who complained of the work-related illnesses to a doctor.
A second inspection in February 2012 discovered that the company had not acted on the health and safety violations identified almost a year earlier and, July 2012, Tenneco was fined $78,000.
The claim for exposure to chemicals at work is being made against Tenneco, Atotech USA of Delaware who designed the ventilation system, HCH Services of North Carolina who installed it at the Hartwell manufacturing plant, and Compass Health and Safety of Illinois – who failed to notice that the company had opened all the windows to the factory when conducting their own air quality test (on behalf of the company) in March 2011.