The U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration has cited metals recycler Gaby Iron and Metal Company in Chicago Heights, Ill., with 17 alleged health and safety violations, including allowing workers to exceed allowable exposure limits to lead and failing to require respirators to be worn. Lead can cause brain damage, paralysis, kidney disease and even death. The citations carry total penalties of $135,850.

OSHA's inspection, which was initiated in March from a State of Illinois Lead Enforcement Program referral, cited Gaby Iron and Metal Company with four alleged willful violations with proposed fines of $112,000 for failing to implement a respiratory protection program, failing to provide a written lead compliance or training plan, failing to monitor air for lead during process or material changes and allowing workers to be exposed to lead in excess of allowable limits. A willful violation is one committed with intentional, knowing or voluntary disregard for the law's requirement, or plain indifference to employee safety and health.

"Gaby Iron and Metal has demonstrated disregard for the safety and welfare of its workers by not following OSHA safety standards to monitor employees' exposure to hazardous materials," said OSHA area director Gary Anderson. "We are committed to protecting workers by enforcing safe practices and OSHA regulations."

Additionally, the company was cited for 12 serious citations with proposed penalties of $23,850 that include failing to evaluate employees' exposure to arsenic or provide arsenic training, place lead-contaminated clothing in closed containers and label those containers, provide a medical surveillance program for lead exposure and implement a hazard communications training program. An OSHA violation is serious if death or serious physical harm can result from a hazard an employer knew or should have known exists. The company also received one other-than-serious violation for its lack of a written and certified personal protective equipment assessment.

Gaby Iron and Metal Company was also inspected by OSHA in 2006, resulting in three serious citations for lack of protective clothing for welders and improper oxygen cylinder storage, and in 1984, when OSHA inspectors noted the lack of a hearing conservation program.

The company has 15 business days from receipt of its latest citations and penalties to comply, request an informal conference with OSHA's area director or contest the findings before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission