Heavy Equipment Manufacturers Expose Workers to Toxic Chemicals

A Seattle-based heavy equipment manufacturer has been fined $2 million for 175 safety workplace violations, including toxic airborne chemicals and missed crane inspections. The case highlights the unsafe – and sometimes deadly – conditions some workers face on the job.

Young Corp., a maker of heavy tools such as hydraulic cylinders, failed to inspect its cranes for more than three years and ignored hazards found during an inspection in March 2020, according to investigators.

According to the Washington state Department of Labor & Industries, confidential complaints from a worker led to inspections of Young Corp.’s three locations. Across all three sites, inspectors found 31 willful serious violations, seven willful general violations, 94 serious violations, and more than 40 general violations. Serious violations are defined as those where hazards could cause injury or death.

Inspectors found that workers were exposed to dangerous chemicals that exceeded legal limits. The chemicals included hexavalent chromium, which is linked to an increased risk of cancer, and crystalline silica, which is linked to lung cancer and pulmonary disease.

Additional safety violations found by L&I’s Division of Occupational Safety and Health include:

  • Crumbling asbestos tiles
  • Workers eating, drinking, and smoking near toxic chemicals
  • Machines without protective guards
  • Unqualified crane operators and riggers
  • Welders without protective helmets
  • Damaged wire ropes and rigging

The Link Between Workplace Chemical Exposure and Birth Defects

Workers in the United States use tens of thousands of chemicals every day, creating a risk of toxic exposure. Dangers associated with toxic chemicals in the workplace include:

  • Acute toxicity
  • Skin corrosion or irritation
  • Eye damage or irritation
  • Respiratory and skin sensitization
  • Reproductive toxicology
  • Carcinogenicity

Boeing, the world’s largest aerospace company, which has come under fire for exposing workers to dangerous chemicals such as cadmium, hexavalent chromium, and industrial solvents. These chemicals have been linked to birth defects as well as cancer and other serious illnesses.

What Should Employers do to Protect Workers?

According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), only a small number of chemicals are regulated in the workplace. Consequently, there are more than 50,000 deaths and 190,000 illnesses every year as a result of workers’ exposure to chemicals. Chemical exposure at workplaces has been linked to various cancers, as well as lung, kidney, skin, heart, stomach, brain, nerve, and reproductive diseases.

To ensure worker protection, OSHA encourages employers to reduce or eliminate chemical hazards at the source. This can be achieved by transitioning to safer alternatives, or what the OSHA refers to as “informed substitution.” Reducing or eliminating hazardous chemicals also has benefits for employers, such as potential cost savings and demonstrating industry leadership.

How We Help Boeing Birth Defect VictimsSeek justice with the help of our experienced birth defects attorneys. Our alliance of birth defect victims’ attorneys has represented people like you affected by birth defects caused by toxic exposure at Boeing, aggressively fighting the corporate giants who failed to protect vulnerable workers. If you or a loved one was exposed to chemicals while pregnant and now have a child who suffers from a life-altering birth defect like spina bifida, muscular dystrophy, or cerebral palsy, we can help.