Kingspan Modesto Workers File Cal/OSHA Complaint, Allege Chronic Exposure to Dangerous Plastic Dust and Chemicals at ‘Green’ Factory

Seven workers from Kingspan Insulated Panel facility in Modesto, Calif., filed a complaint with the California Division of Occupational Safety and Health (Cal/OSHA) on Wednesday, September 6, 2023. They alleged chronic exposure to insulation dust and hazardous chemicals, unsanitary conditions due to an indoor infestation of pigeons, a history of inadequate training for hazardous materials, including Methylene diphenyl diisocyanate (MDI), and lack of personal protective equipment, among other complaints.

Air Pollution Inside Kingspan

Initial Results from a 3-Day Monitoring Study

PM2.5 is an air pollutantairborne particulate matter smaller than 1/70th the diameter of a human hairwidely associated with a range of adverse health conditions, including respiratory and cardiovascular problems, as well as increased mortality and hospital admissions. Following concerns raised by workers at the Kingspan facility in Santa Ana, California, workers and community leaders organized and engaged experts in the construction of an air monitoring assessment to measure the levels of PM2.5 to which Kingspan workers and residents are exposed during the workday.

This report details the air monitoring assessment, summarizes its results and offers recommendations for better management of indoor air pollution at the company.

Whistleblower Complaint Filed with CalEPA by Kingspan Workers

UPDATE: In January 2022, the Santa Ana Regional Water Board (part of CalEPA) issued a notice of violation of the industrial permit at the Kingspan Santa Ana facility.

On October 18, 2021, Kingspan employees working at the company’s Santa Ana, Calif., manufacturing plant and the International Association of Sheet Metal, Air, Rail and Transportation Workers (SMART), jointly filed a whistleblower complaint against Kingspan Light + Air (“Kingspan”), alleging that the company has been violating the Clean Water Act by not adhering to best management practices.

The complaint calls upon the State Water Resources Control Board, Office of Enforcement (a division of CalEPA), and the Santa Ana Regional Water Quality Control Board to investigate Kingspan’s compliance with its Storm Water Pollution Prevention Plan (SWPPP) at its Santa Ana manufacturing facility. The report includes allegations that Kingspan instructed workers to use a leaf blower to blow dust and debris, rather than vacuuming it up per the terms of its SWPPP. The individual workers signing the complaint are both employees at the facility and residents of neighborhoods that surround it.

Workplace Health and Safety Complaint Filed with Cal-OSHA by Kingspan Workers

UPDATE: Following Kingspan’s appeal, CalOSHA reduced the number of violations to 22, and the fines to $21,785. The case was closed on September 20, 2022.

On October 15, 2021, Kingspan employees working at the company’s Santa Ana, Calif., manufacturing plant filed a complaint with the state alleging that working conditions at the company’s two facilities in the city are in violation of the California Occupational Safety and Health Act. The complaint calls on Cal-OSHA to conduct a “comprehensive investigation” into the hazards described in the complaint, as as well any other hazards that might be observed.

In the complaint, Kingspan workers state that they can attest to violations that include “high levels of indoor air pollution, inadequate or non-existent ventilation especially around welding and spray-paint operations, faulty machines, trip and fall hazards in working areas, obstructed eyewash stations, empty eyewash stations which are not filled with water, frequent workplace injuries, repetitive motion injuries, and a lack of proper training around chemical use and injury prevention.”

Santa Ana Kingspan workers Lucas, left, and Jorge just before filing their complaint with Cal-OSHA on Oct. 15.

Download PDF of the complaint.