Designation comes shortly after Cal/OSHA issues citations for serious health & safety violations at Santa Ana Kingspan factory, with fines of $39K
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
APRIL 27, 2022
Today, the National Council for Occupational Safety and Health (National COSH) announced its 2022 “Dirty Dozen,” adding Kingspan Light & Air, located in Santa Ana, Calif., to a list of employers the organization says have “put workers, families and communities at risk.”
In naming global “green” building materials manufacturer Kingspan to the list, National COSH pointed to workplace air monitoring conducted by Kingspan employees in 2021 that found high levels of indoor air pollution.
“In each Dirty Dozen case, we find egregious behavior by an employer that exposes workers to preventable hazards,” reads the executive summary of the 2022 “Dirty Dozen” report, which also highlights workplace safety risks at Amazon, Dollar General and Starbucks, as well as eight other employers.
Kingspan’s “Dirty Dozen” designation comes less than two weeks after California’s Division of Occupational Safety and Health (Cal/OSHA) cited Kingspan Light & Air – a subsidiary of Ireland-based building materials company Kingspan Group, which operates 15 factories across the United States – for 24 alleged violations of the state’s occupational health and safety code at its Santa Ana skylight factory, including five serious violations, and set fines against the company of $39,145. Issued on April 14, 2022, the citations and fines become final if Kingspan does not appeal within 15 working days of receipt.
Serious violations under California law are ones where “there is a realistic possibility that death or serious physical harm could result from the actual hazard created by the violation.”
Cal/OSHA conducted a six-month investigation after Kingspan workers filed a complaint with the agency in October 2021, following growing concerns over workplace exposure to the air pollutant PM 2.5. Researchers estimate exposure to PM 2.5 causes between 85,000 and 200,000 premature deaths each year.
With the assistance of University of California-Irvine air pollution scientist Dr. Shahir Masri, Kingspan workers wore and positioned air monitoring devices inside the Santa Ana factory over three workdays, while community allies monitored the air in the surrounding neighborhood. The air monitoring results showed PM 2.5 concentrations inside the factory six to seven times higher than what was measured outdoors. Of eight employees who carried air monitors, five recorded average PM 2.5 concentrations that, if measured outdoors, would rank between “unhealthy” and “very unhealthy” on the EPA’s Air Quality Index. Some measurements reached the maximum limit of the monitor’s detection ability.
The monitoring results were not surprising to some Kingspan workers, who weld, spray paint and assemble skylights.
“When you start welding, the material is very dirty. So, it gives off a lot of smoke,” said Mica Pacheco, who works as a welder at the factory. “We have been talking to [Kingspan] for a long time, especially about the extractors we need to get rid of the smoke. But they just say, ‘Later, later, it’s coming.’ ”
The Cal/OSHA citations allege that Kingspan broke the law by:
- Having workers use bench grinders, air-supplied crimper machines, radial arm saws and circular metal-cutting saws without the appropriate guards and protections;
- Not keeping records on whether the ventilation systems used to prevent exposure to air pollution were actually effective;
- Not measuring air pollution workers were exposed to when it was reasonable to suspect illegally high levels;
- Failing to medically evaluate and fit workers for proper respirators, and then failing to train workers on how to appropriately use the respirators;
- Failing to keep an up-to-date list of all the hazardous chemicals present in the factory and to train workers on how to safely use them.