The Kingspan factory in Santa Ana, Calif., employs about 70 workers in welding, fiberglass, paint and other departments. Most of the workers are Latino, some with up to 30 years on the job. Many live in the city of Santa Ana. Jobs are varied, from MIG and TIG welding, to forming and processing fiberglass, industrial painting and assembly.
In 2016, Kingspan bought the Bristolite Skylight factory in Santa Ana and merged it into the Light + Air division.
In 2019, Kingspan bought Skyco Skylights and closed the Skyco factory in Costa Mesa, Calif., combining the two workplaces into the Santa Ana location.
Welding galvanized metal, as workers inside the Santa Ana plant do every day, can lead to “metal fume fever,” a respiratory illness, and other health problems.
In addition to heavy metals from welding, workers use industrial materials including acetone, polymer resins, ketone peroxide, methanol, marine-grade gel coat, styrene monomer, propane, argon, and argon mixed with carbon dioxide. The manufacturing processes create emissions of zinc oxide and lead oxide, acetone, styrene emissions, and other hazardous chemicals and fumes. Despite using these chemicals, the workers we interviewed could not recall having ever been trained about proper use of these chemicals or what to do in the event of an accident.
Workers we interviewed say they have never seen the company monitor the air inside the factory, and welders state that the extractors management provides are inadequate for removing the fumes the welding creates. They state there is no mechanical ventilation that brings in outdoor air. Eye wash stations have been blocked by stacks of pallets and heavy equipment.
Interviewed workers report that fumes from galvanized paint and welding spread across the assembly and other department work areas. They also report that spray painting operations occur out in the open without adequate ventilation. Workers are concerned that the masks provided by Kingspan are inadequate for the hazardous materials they are using. Headaches, nausea, sudden and intense fatigue and chronic pain have been reported.
Workers report mandatory overtime and crowded working conditions.
Workers have asked for safer working conditions. The company formed a safety committee in March 2021, but the conditions have not changed.