April 27, 1998

Local News

Mowat fined again for allegedly exposing workers to lead

  by Woodinville Weekly staff

   WOODINVILLE--Mowat Construction has been fined another $197,500 for, among alleged violations, willfully exposing workers to lead up to 80 times above permitted levels. The Woodinville contractor now faces fines of over $270,000 for lead exposure violations from two separate bridge projects. Overexposure to lead can result in damage to the brain, nerves, kidneys, blood cells and reproductive organs, according to the state Department of Labor and Industries (L&I) who issued the fines last week.
   Though Mowat officials didn't return a phone call to this newspaper, a newsradio station quoted company president David Sandstrom as saying, "Mowat has never, and will never, put its employees in danger." The latest fines occurred during a seismic retro-fit project on the University Bridge in Seattle. According to L&I, Mowat willfully exposed employees to 80 times permissible levels of lead, failed to remove two workers with elevated lead-blood levels, didn't provide adequate interim respiratory protection and failed to provide on-going and additional air monitoring.
   "Lead is a serious health hazard for many workers, and especially for those in construction activities where there is a greater likelihood that lead in paint and other materials will be disturbed and ingested," Dr. Michael Silverstein, assistant L&I director for Washington Industrial Safety and Health Act Services. Lead enters the body through respiration or is ingested as dust in the air. According to L&I, "willful" violations indicate the employer intentionally violated worker protection rules or exhibited "plain indifference" and failed to take corrective action.
   In addition, Mowat was cited for an additional 10 serious violations, including deficient hazard training, incorrect initial respiratory protection, and failure to provide protective clothing and shower facilities. L&I officials said Mowat's citations are part of a national emphasis on the construction industry where lead is widely used on metal bridges because of its weatherability.
   "Lead exposure endangers the lives of workers and threatens the health of their families We are serious about bringing this problem under control in the construction industry," Silverstein said. Last month, L&I fined Mowat $73,000 for health violations that occurred during maintenance of the Lewis and Clark Bridge in Vancouver. The company has appealed those citations.