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Spirit AeroSystems Disputes OSHA Findings, Proposed Penalties

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OSHA has cited Spirit AeroSystems for exposing workers to high levels of a cancer-causing agent, a claim the company disputes.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration said in a news release Wednesday that some Spirit employees were exposed to hexavalent chromium at nearly twice the permissible limit. OSHA cited the company for one willful and five serious violations it observed in August. The agency is proposing penalties of nearly $200,000.

“Employers are required to continually evaluate their facilities for hazards, and use the proper safety controls and equipment to keep their work sites safe and healthy.” OSHA official Ryan Hodge said in a news release.

Spirit, located in south Wichita, is the city’s largest private employer. It designs and manufactures aviation structures for commercial and defense customers.

The company said in a statement that it does not think any employees were exposed to improper levels of hexavalent chromium.

"Nonetheless, Spirit has already begun taking steps to correct many of the issues described in the citations and looks forward to collaborating with OSHA to ensure its compliance with all OSHA regulations moving forward," the statement said. "The safety and well-being of our employees is our top priority, and we remain committed to driving an ever-stronger safety culture at Spirit."

According to OSHA, Spirit failed to: implement sufficient engineering and work practice controls to prevent exposure; conduct monitoring or sampling; provide training, and require employees to remove potentially contaminated protective equipment and clothing before leaving the work area.

The company has 15 business days to contest the findings, request a conference with OSHA or comply with the order. Spirit said in its statement that it plans to request a conference with OSHA to discuss the findings and seek a reduction of the penalties.