OSHA: Spirit AeroSystems exposed employees to known carcinogen

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WICHITA, Kan. (WBJ) -

The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration on Wednesday announced it has cited Spirit AeroSystems Inc. for exposing employees to a known carcinogen.

According to a news release, OSHA found that the company exposed some workers to hexavalent chromium, which can target the respiratory system, kidneys, liver, skin and eyes, according to OSHA's website.

Spirit faces penalties totaling almost $200,000 for six different violations, including one "willful" violation, according to OSHA. Investigators, the release said, found that Spirit exposed employees to airborne concentrations of hexavalent chromium at nearly twice the permissible limit.

According to the findings, Spirit "failed to implement sufficient feasible engineering and work practice controls to prevent exposure, conduct monitoring or sampling, provide training, and require employees to properly remove potentially contaminated personal protective equipment and clothing before leaving the sanding area."

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The alleged infractions occurred in August, according to OSHA records.

“This company failed to protect their employees from exposure to a known carcinogen,” said Ryan Hodge, acting OSHA office director for the Wichita area, in the release. “Employers are required to continually evaluate their facilities for hazards, and use the proper safety controls and equipment to keep their worksites safe and healthy.”

Spirit has a window of time where it can contest the citations. In a statement emailed to the WBJ from Spirit spokeswoman Keturah Austin, the company says it disputes OSHA's findings.

"Spirit does not believe any of its employees have been exposed to improper levels of (hexavalent chromium)," the release said. "Nonetheless, Spirit has already begun taking steps to correct many of the issues described in the citations and looks forward to collaborating with OSHA to ensure its compliance with all OSHA regulations moving forward." 

The company added that the "safety and well-being of our employees is our top priority." In December, Spirit announced plans to add 1,000 new jobs and invest $1 billion of capital in its Wichita operations over the next five years.

According to the American Cancer Society, a carcinogen is a substance that has been known to lead to cause cancer.

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