Major General Robert McMahon met with the media earlier this afternoon to address the second round of OSHA citations handed out last week. McMahon says he wants safety improvements for employees and more efficient processes to ensure the highest standard is met.
"The buck stops with me. It is my responsibility to take care of the men and women that work here. It's to ensure that they have a safe and secure environment to work in to accomplish what it is that they do and we're going to do that," said McMahon.
In the second round of citations, high exposure levels of cancer causing particles were found in a number of buildings. According to OSHA's citations, lead, chromium (VI), and cadmium were found in buildings 59, 89, 137, and 323. These citations are separate from the high exposure levels found last May in buildings 169 and 670.
"What we found out based on the work that OSHA was doing and has done, is that in fact, in some cases our processes did not properly mitigate the risks associated with those three chemicals in particular. So that's when we began taking mitigation to resolve that," said McMahon.
General McMahon said some OSHA standards did not match that of the base. But now after the citations have been handed down, base officials hope to raise the bar and improve safety for employees.
"Do they have the proper protective equipment; is it the state of the art equipment that they need and does it protect them to the best possible level that we can achieve? Then when they come out of those areas is there an adequate area that can transition from where those contaminants are higher to areas where we don't want those contaminants? That's part of the process we're going through," said McMahon.
Ray Fisher is a sheet metal mechanic in building 169 and has suffered discoloration and rashes on his hands since working in the building. Fisher says health complications are common for employees near the metal sanding and especially new workers.
"Cancer is first and foremost (on their mind) for any of them. Respiratory infections and stuff like that are pretty common. We've had co-ops come in which are straight out of school transferred from another building and they would automatically have like nose bleeds for the first two weeks until they got acclimated to our environment," said Fisher.
According to Major General McMahon, there are more safety problems at the base, with more OSHA citations on the way.
"In addition we fully expect to receive over the next couple of weeks two notices of violation for approximately 20 additional citations," said McMahon.
Out of the current OSHA citations, 13 from May and 27 more from last week, General McMahon says some have resolved already, but there is still work to done to assure the safety of base employees.
"In some cases the mitigation actions are already in place, in some cases we still have work to do. But the bottom line out of this is our work force needs to know that when they come through the gates, they'll have a safe and secure environment to work in. It is my job to make sure that they have that and we are dedicated to making sure that that takes place," said McMahon.
Major General McMahon said one area the base plans to improve is their wipe sampling so they can locate when contaminants are collecting on surfaces. This addresses a number of OSHA citations that found contamination.
Last September, OSHA wipe samples showed high levels of chromium (VI) on the break room table, refrigerator, and drink machine of building 89.