If you own or manage a shooting range, you know that lead exposure can be a serious issue for employees and customers. But maybe you don’t think that the lead exposure at your range is dangerous enough to be concerned.
Think again. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), which has oversight for workplace health issues like lead exposure, will be able to levy higher fines in 2016, and the price for even minor violations might not be worth it.
OSHA Cites Gun Range in Celina, Ohio for Workplace Lead Exposure
The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) issued 23 citations to Kremer’s Guns LLC in Celina, Ohio in September of this year. Cited for exposure of chemical hazards to its employees, OSHA cites the gun range for workplace lead exposure after receiving a medical referral which indicated an employee had elevated blood lead levels.
The inspection, initiated by OSHA, found the following violations against Kremer’s Guns LLC (referred to as “the company or workplace”):
- In the workplace environment workers were over exposed to lead.
- The company did not monitor their workers’ exposure to lead and arsenic.
- Workers lacked training on lead, arsenic and chemical hazards.
- A respiratory protection program was not part of the hiring process.
- Protective clothing, such as shoe covers and coveralls, was not provided for the employees.
- Employees, working in the lead environment, wore their work clothing home exposing other persons to lead — which the company was aware of.
- Showers or a separate lunch facility were not available to employees wearing clothing exposed to lead.
- Housekeeping procedures to remove lead to protect employee exposure was not set up by the company.
Serious health hazards are a result of lead exposure, which is preventable. The first steps are the use of engineering controls to ensure your employees are safe from exposure. Give each employee his personal protective equipment (coveralls, shoe covers, and respirators) to limit exposure to him. Secondly, you can limit exposure to the lead area with appropriate cleaning of the lead dust and particles. This action helps employees from taking lead contamination home.
If Kremer’s Guns LLC included employee protection from lead exposure, the company would have saved the proposed penalties of $61,200 by OSHA. In addition to those fees, the company will pay for “clean up” and raising the company to OSHA regulations and standards.
Don’t let this happen to your gun range company. Lead exposure is a serious matter for your employees and yourself. Simply contact us for information and assistance to bring your company up to the standards and regulations of OSHA.
Why is OSHA Able to Assess Higher Fines Now?
The Congressional budget bill signed by President Barack Obama in November allowed OSHA to raise their maximum penalties. Previously, the penalties had been tied to the Consumer Price Index in 1990, but OSHA head David Michaels had been pushing for an update to the maximum allowable assessed penalties.
That means that fines may jump as much as 78 percent starting Aug. 1, 2016. Also, there may be increased or more robust inspections carried out as part of the change.
And small to mid-sized ranges are definitely on OSHA’s radar. A case in Ohio last September is just one example of a range found to have toxic lead levels. Kremer’s Guns in Celina was charged with 23 violations and fined $61,200. Under the new penalty scenario, a range could be assessed nearly double that amount.
What’s the Deal With Lead Exposure at Ranges?
When a lead bullet is fired, it leaves behind dust that you can inhale, and that can cause neurological damage. A lack of proper ventilation makes it more likely that you’ll breathe in lead dust, or you may get it on your hands and clothes and carry it with you outside the range. At the range itself, the bullet fragments end up on the ground, contaminating it with lead.
The Seattle Times investigated more than 6,000 gun ranges in the U.S., and found that only 201 have been inspected by OSHA in the past 10 years. Almost 9 in 10 ranges had some lead violations.
What Can You Do to Clean Up Your Range?
Because lead can be so toxic and the dust from fired bullets can be so invasive, having a full assessment through an environmental firing range service provider like MT2 is crucial to knowing if you have a problem and figuring out how to alleviate it before you’re inspected by a federal agency.
MT2 has more than 14 years of experience cleaning up indoor and outdoor ranges that have been contaminated with lead and counts hundreds of municipal, county and state law enforcement agencies as clients. We also help to reclaim the lead that is found and recycle it so that it is properly disposed of and can be reused.
When Can OSHA Cite Gun Ranges for Workplace Lead Exposure?
The hidden risks of firing lead-based ammunition, spreading lead vapor, and dust filled with lead are found in almost 10,000 gun ranges in the United States. Shooting firearms has skyrocketed to an estimated 40 million recreational shooters yearly. Consider the number of firing ranges that do not follow OSHA guidelines, a number you may not want to know about, and you have an idea of the number of employees and/or range members exposed to lead.
When can OSHA cite gun ranges for workplace lead exposure?
The only way OSHA can step into a gun range and check it for lead exposure is when there is a complaint from an employee or participant at the firing range. A complaint linked to health problems including:
- organ damage
- mental impairment and
- even death
A blood test report showing overexposure to lead will have OSHA knocking on the firing range’s door sooner than later. However, “through documents, interviews, and a first-of-its-kind analysis of occupational lead-monitoring data, The (Seattle) Times found reckless shooting-range owners repeatedly violating workplace-safety laws.
The Seattle Times investigated and wrote a five-part series on April 13, 2015, about the lead poisoning neglect of owners and managers of firing ranges in the U.S. Eighty-six percent of 201 ranges revealed violations of at least one lead-related standard. Since the Seattle Times series, firing ranges have increased from 6,000 commercial indoor and outdoor ranges to an estimated 10,000 ranges.
An ideal employee suffers from neglect of the Bluegrass Indoor Range owner.
A former gun-range manager in Kentucky, James Maddox, is a prime candidate of the effects of lead poisoning. He and his wife worked at Bluegrass Indoor Range in Louisville for about a year. Like most firing-range workers, Maddox wasn’t aware of the damaging capabilities of lead. Earning $9.00 per hour, he inhaled airborne lead while managing the range and gun shop. Every night he swept up spent ammunition casings with a broom — kicking up more lead dust as he swept.
When he complained to the owner, Winfield Underwood, inspectors came out to inspect the firing range. They found overflowing catch bins of spent ammunition, a ventilation system that didn’t work or even have filters, and workers without protective gear to wear.
Maddox, a hefty 38-year-old man, dropped 180 pounds during the six months he worked at the Louisville firing range. He lost sensation in his fingers and toes, his thinking slowed, and he has trouble remembering birthdays. He has no sex drive. “It just feels like someone unplugged me from the wall and I just lost all my power,” he said.
The doctor diagnosed Maddox with lead poisoning from the gun range. A blood test in February, 2007 showed Maddox’s level of lead was 68 micrograms per deciliter, which is equal to one tenth of a liter. And his blood test reading was more than 56 times the average adult level.
“At that time OSHA’s 36-year-old regulations said employees could have up to six times that amount of lead in their blood before being removed from the work area. The Seattle Times found dozens of employees who had already suffered significant health problems before reaching that threshold.”
Maddox returned to work after a few weeks, expecting that the lead problems were gone. But he found nothing had changed and he alerted pregnant women and children to avoid entering the range.
Maddox’s wife developed elevated levels of lead and at that point they both quit their jobs.
“You claimed to care so much for me and my family and you did NOTHING to protect us from this or even try to resolve any further exposure to supply us with the proper safety equipment,” Maddox wrote in his resignation letter dated April, 2007.
The Seattle Times was unable to reach Winfield Underwood for comment.
Ten years later and lead is still a problem at firing ranges.
Although this incident happened almost ten years ago, there are still cases of lead exposure from firing ranges and cases of people becoming ill because the owners do not take appropriate measures to protect their employees and customers.
Before entering a firing range check the ventilation, ask what their removal process is of the spent casings, and above everything else, smell the air. A funky smell will be a sure sign of lead exposure and prompt you to head to a different firing range.
Contact us for help cleaning up your range — make it safe for shooters and for workers, and potentially avoid hefty OSHA fines.