The contractor overseeing stone restoration of the Missouri state Capitol has been fined by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration for serious alleged violations, though the contractor is appealing OSHA's findings.
Chicago-based Bulley & Andrews Masonry Restoration LLC is overseeing the $28.69 million restoration of much of the Capitol's exterior stone work.
The stone restoration work began in spring 2018 and is planned to be finished by December 2020, in time for the January 2021 Inaugural Ceremonies traditionally held on the Capitol's South Lawn.
OSHA opened its file about Bulley & Andrews' work at the Capitol on Jan. 29, 2019, and unannounced inspection of the work site followed a complaint, according to details available online through OSHA.
The federal workplace safety agency cited Bulley & Andrews for four serious violations and issued fines for three of the violations July 24 — $6,630 for each of three violations, for a total of $19,890.
OSHA found Bulley & Andrews had violated two standards on occupational noise exposure — for either not taking feasible measures to control noise past acceptable sound levels or not providing employees with protective equipment if those measures did not work; and for not administering "an effective hearing conservation program" when noise exceeded acceptable sound levels.
What an acceptable sound level is depends on loudness as perceived by the human ear — measured in A-weighted decibels, or dBA — and how many hours a day workers are exposed to it.
The quietest sound level OSHA requires protective measures for is 90 dBA for eight hours a day, according to the standard cited in Bulley & Andrews' case.
A sound level chart from Yale University lists 80-90 dBA as the "level at which sustained exposure may result in hearing loss." City traffic is listed at 85 dBA, and a lawn mower at 107 dBA. Someone experiences acute ear pain beginning at 125 dBA.
OSHA fined Bulley & Andrews only for the alleged violation of the standard on taking sound control measures or providing workers with protective equipment.
OSHA also fined Bulley & Andrews for alleged violations of two standards on "crystalline silica" — the airborne dust that results from chipping, cutting, drilling or grinding stone.
Crystalline silica has been classified as a lung cancer-causing agent, and it can cause a condition called silicosis when scar tissue forms in a person's lungs, according to OSHA.
OSHA cited Bulley & Andrews for not fully and properly implementing respiratory protections for workers using certain equipment and for allegedly not monitoring the level of dust in the air.
Bulley & Andrews is appealing OSHA's findings — something indicated in OSHA's records and that the company's marketing director Sloan Watson noted in an email Tuesday.
Watson did not add further comment on OSHA's findings of violations at the Capitol work site or on the company's appeal.
Appeals of OSHA findings are handled by the Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission. The commission and OSHA were created by the same federal law in 1970, but the commission is an independent agency in order to maintain impartiality in cases.
Appeals are heard before an administrative law judge at OSHRC's national office in Washington, D.C., or at regional offices in Atlanta and Denver. Any appeals of a judge's decision are heard by commissioners in Washington.
OSHRC's most recent list of its new cases only goes through June 30, before Bulley & Andrews appealed OSHA's findings at the Capitol work site, so further information was not immediately available Tuesday.
Bulley & Andrews received two other citations from OSHA in the past 10 years — one each from separate cases in 2012 at work sites in Illinois. Both of those initially serious violations appear to be unrelated to the types of alleged violations at the Capitol, based on the OSHA standards cited, and both violations were reduced — with fines also reduced in one case — following informal settlements between the company and OSHA.
"We are proud of our excellent safety record, achieved through the dedication of our employees and subcontractors. We continually work to promote safe, accident-free environments which reflects our dedication to zero accident project sites," according to Bulley & Andrews' website.
Restoration of the Capitol remains on track for completion in late 2020, Missouri's Office of Administration reported in August. Work that remained then included repairing or replacing remaining paver stones; completing the east side balustrades and stairs repairs and replacement; restoring the West Capitol Avenue and sidewalks on the south side of the building; completing dome, lantern and columns repairs and replacements; and re-installing the Ceres statue on top of the Capitol.
It's anticipated Ceres will be re-installed this December. Bulley & Andrews is having the Roman goddess statue refurbished at the Conservation of Sculpture and Objects Studio Inc. in Forest Park, Illinois.