OSHA rules require employers in Tennessee and throughout the country to determine ahead of time if a respirator is needed to complete a given project. Employers are also required to choose a respirator that meets all their workers’ needs. Although OSHA’s Respiratory Protection Standard had been challenged in court, it was upheld by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.
Ship welders complained of poor air quality
The case that eventually made its way to the Ninth Circuit began in 2009. Welders for Seward Ship’s Drydock Inc. claimed that they were asked to work in ship voids that contained air filled with smoke. While the company did offer respiratory equipment, only one person chose to wear it while working. Tests would later reveal that workers were exposed to iron oxide, manganese and other chemicals that could cause breathing problems.
OSHA inspectors issued multiple citations
Seward was cited for 13 infractions, including a failure to test for dangerous chemicals in the air. Furthermore, OSHA determined that the tests that were conducted did not account for permissible exposure limits (PELs). However, Seward would appeal the decision, and an administrative law judge (ALJ) found in favor of the company, saying that its testing methods were adequate.
What the federal court ruling could mean for other employers
The Ninth Circuit’s ruling in favor of OSHA will likely change how employers account for potential airborne hazards, and it might also change how they plan to keep employees safe in potentially dangerous environments. Companies should also evaluate how they plan for potential emergencies, such as the failure of a ventilation system.
Those who get sick at work may be entitled to financial benefits. An attorney may be able to help individuals learn more about their rights or fill out workers’ compensation paperwork.