PARAMOUNT, CA - California’s workplace safety agency has cited and fined two metal-processing companies at the center of this city’s pollution crisis , accusing them of placing the health of dozens of workers at risk.
The Division of Occupational Safety and Health cited Anaplex Corp. and Aerocraft Heat Treating Co. for violations after inspectors said employees exposed to harmful material were not provided with proper safety equipment, procedures or other resources.
The companies manufacture aerospace and industrial parts.
Anaplex is employee-owned. Company officials are appealing the violations issued in May, contending workers weren’t exposed to harmful chemical levels and that the company has a long, solid safety record.
“We were surprised at the Cal/OSHA investigation, which we believe is an example of unwarranted government overreach,” the statement said. “Cal/OSHA has refused to turn over test results and has cited Anaplex for what would ordinarily be general safety and health violations.”
Cal/OSHA fined Anaplex $78,250 for nine violations, including failure to provide workers with splash goggles, insufficient ventilation near paint booths and inadequate eye-wash and shower stations near plating and aluminum-processing operations. Inspectors noted that some of the violations were corrected during their inspection.
A representative of Aerocraft, owned by Berkshire Hathaway, could not be immediately reached. But Aerocraft General Manager Greg Stonick told KPCC-FM (89.3) radio that the company is working cooperatively with the agency to resolve concerns.
Cal/OSHA fined Aerocraft $30,135 for five violations, including failing to test a ventilation system meant to prevent workers from harmful exposure to dust, leaving unsecured a tank filled with hazardous materials, failing to create a plan for employees exposed to high-decibel noise, lack of certification for some truck operators and exposing workers to “a fall of approximately 10 feet into mineral oil.”
Collectively, the companies employ about 120 people in Paramount and have been under scrutiny since last year, when the South Coast Air Quality Management District linked the facilities to the release of dangerous levels of hexavalent chromium, a substance known to cause cancer.
The revelations sparked protests from residents and criticism from local leaders, many of whom raised concern about workers.
Earlier this year, several residents filed a class-action lawsuit against seven metal-related companies in Paramount, including Anaplex and Oregon-based Precision Castparts Corp., the parent company of Carlton Forge Works, Aerocraft and Press Forge.
PCC supplies parts for Airbus, Rolls Royce and Boeing. Last year, PCC was acquired by Berkshire Hathaway for $37.2 billion.
Both companies have been intermittently shut down after violating an air-district order to curb their emission of chromium-6.
Magdalena Guillen, who runs the Facebook page Paramount Coalition Against Toxins said Anaplex is trying to play the victim.
“It’s just more of the same,” she said. “They claim to be very concerned about the community and worker but the evidence says otherwise. We would like them to consider the employees and the community.”