The state Department of Labor and Industries has cited a Bellevue firing range for 17 violations of health and safety rules in the wake of a lead-salvage and construction project that exposed dozens of workers to high levels of toxic lead.
L&I fined Wade’s Eastside Gun Shop $23,480 after a six-month investigation of one of the most extensive incidents of workplace lead exposure in recent memory in Washington state.
The fines were announced Tuesday.
The alleged violations included failing to conduct adequate air monitoring during “mining” of lead bullet fragments from a sand berm, failing to ensure exposed workers’ blood was regularly tested, sweeping up rather than vacuuming bullets and lead dust, and failing to make sure workers wore fit-tested respirators.
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Eleven of the violations were labeled serious, four of them repetitions of safety violations the state found in 2010.
Wade Gaughran, owner of the gun range on Bel-Red Road, could not be reached for comment Tuesday evening. He has 15 business days to appeal the citations, which were issued Friday.
L&I spokeswoman Elaine Fischer said the violations were unusually serious because a “large number” of workers were affected and because the concentrations of lead in some workers’ blood “were really high.”
The lead exposures occurred mostly between last September and November, as Wade’s employees mined a sand berm and construction workers added a second floor to the gun range.
The business stayed open during construction.
Forty-seven employees of the gun range and construction firms had elevated blood-lead levels, and 24 reported symptoms consistent with lead poisoning, according to a summary report by Public Health — Seattle & King County.
One worker, who had three times the allowable blood-lead level, suffered cramps and frequently vomited at work, according to other workers.
Three children and two women living with workers also tested positive for excess lead, possibly because the workers carried lead home on their clothes and tools.
A public-health official said in February they were concerned about the exposure because it has long been known that lead can damage the nervous system, kidneys, cardiovascular system and gastrointestinal system.
“It is a large number” of exposed workers, Fischer said, “because there were gun-range workers and construction workers all in there working in the place where the lead dust was being disturbed and the controls weren’t in place to clear it out.”
L&I investigated seven employers, including construction contractors, and found no lead-related violations for some. Probes of other employers on the site, including general contractor S.D. Deacon, should be completed soon, Fischer said.
Fourteen former Wade’s employees and a former employee of a contractor, Mechanical Control Services, have sued Wade’s, claiming they received no lead-safety training, their work “was largely unsupervised by any qualified personnel” and they were issued substandard protective safety gear “that frequently ripped and fell apart.”
The Wade’s employees claim they were fired or laid off in retaliation for having their blood tested and, in some cases, reporting their concerns to government agencies.
Gaughran said in February there was no merit to the employees’ claims. He said his workers were issued protective suits and respirators recommended by L&I inspectors.
Patrick Reddy, a lawyer for two former employees of subcontractor Brooks Steel Fabrication, said they also plan to sue Wade’s, which he said didn’t have insurance coverage for lead exposure because of its previous compliance problems.
Keith Ervin: 206-464-2105 or firstname.lastname@example.org