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Pa. masonry company agrees to pay back wages in settlement with whistleblower

A Pennsylvania company has agreed to pay $135,000 in back wages and damages to a worker who reported air quality and other safety and health hazards to upper management at the company’s Middletown plant in 2014. 

York Building Products approved a settlement agreement with the U.S. Department of Labor, resolving a whistleblower investigation conducted by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration.

According to the U.S. Department of Labor, the employee started work as a plant manager around Oct. 1, 2014. Shortly after, he identified several safety and health problems at the plant, including excessive respirable dust, worker exposure to noxious chemicals caused by equipment overspray, lack of personal protective equipment for worker, and broken tools and equipment, said the labor department.

The manager alerted the plant operations manager about complaints from plant employees about safety and health conditions, and requested air testing after a plant worker complaints of illness due to dust. The operations manager denied the request and the existence of air problems, and terminated the manager, said the labor department.

The terminated manager filed two complaints with OSHA Oct. 14, 2014, alleging safety and health hazards at the plant and that he was fired in retaliation for reporting these hazards.

On Oct. 20, OSHA began its safety and health investigation of the plant. Inspectors identified 38 violations, resulting in $38,880 in fines. Air samplings collected in the investigation showed that certain plant employees had been exposed to silica dust at amounts up to 14 times greater than permissible exposure limits, said the labor department.

The investigation also concluded the company violated the anti-discrimination provision of the Occupational Safety and Health Act when it terminated the former plant manager.

A subsidiary of The Stewart Companies, York Building Products provides stone masonry, sand and gravel, asphalt and other products at nearly 20 locations in Pennsylvania and Maryland, and is one of the mid-Atlantic region’s largest masonry providers.

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