Key documents for Part 2: The Failings

Gopher worker files a complaint with OSHA

This complaint, filed in January 2012, alleges high levels of sulfur dioxide (SO2) affecting employees in the wastewater treatment section of the plant. The document was redacted by OSHA before it was provided to the Times

OSHA follows up on worker complaint and tests for the wrong chemical

OSHA responded to the 2012 complaint about sulfur dioxide by sending an inspector to the plant. This document is the official narrative of the site visit. In it, the inspector describes testing for sulfuric acid in March, the wrong chemical. The tests came back negative. The case was closed. 

Gopher consultant finds problems with the plant's ventilation

This is an excerpt from a 2017 report by a consultant Gopher hired to evaluate the performance of the baghouse. Among the findings: clogged vents and underpowered fan motors inhibited the performance of the dust collection systems at the plant. 

OSHA launches special program on lead exposure

In 2008, OSHA established a special program with the purpose of reducing occupational lead exposures. Any worker with a blood-lead level of 25 micrograms per deciliter is supposed to warrant inspection of a workplace. A Times analysis of employee blood-lead results found more than 450 instances of Gopher workers testing at least that high from 2014 to 2018. OSHA has not conducted a lead inspection at the plant since 2014 and hasn’t been to the factory at all since 2016. 

OSHA regional office renews initiative to reduce occupational lead exposures

This 2018 document reiterates the Southeast OSHA's special emphasis program designed to target lead exposure in the workplace. The goals were the same as the 2008 national program. No OSHA inspections at Gopher occurred as a result of this initiative. 

OSHA sets lead rules

OSHA's code of federal regulations 1910.1025 outlines the rules for workplaces that expose employees to lead. The regulation sets the limit for lead in the air at 50 micrograms per cubic meter. If lead concentrations exceed this level, OSHA requires the employer to provide appropriate respiratory protection. The regulations also direct employers to provide medical examinations and blood-lead tests to employees. The frequency of required medical exams and blood tests increases as the level of lead measured in an employee's blood rises. Employees who average 50 micrograms per deciliter over a six-month period, or 60 micrograms per deciliter once, are supposed to be removed from the workplace, with full pay and benefits, until their levels fall below 40 micrograms per deciliter. 

OSHA outlines its respiratory protection requirements

OSHA's respiratory protection standard lays out the protection levels and how to measure them. Most employees at Gopher are given air-purifying respirators with an assigned protection factor of 50. This means that most employees can only work in lead-air concentrations of 2,500 micrograms per cubic meter or less before the concentration inside the respirator exceeds the permissible exposure limit for lead. 

We want to talk with you

Do you live in the neighborhoods of Grant Park, Oak Park, Florence Villa, Dixie Farms or Uceta Gardens in Hillsborough County? And do you suffer from these health issues?

  • Heart ailments
  • Kidney disease
  • Infertility
  • Hypertension
  • Muscle weakness
  • Behavioral problems
  • Reduced attention span
  • Cognitive disabilities
  • Debilitating headaches

These are among the factors associated with high levels of lead exposure. Please contact us if you are interested in talking.