Fraser Shipyards Facing Lead Poisoning Lawsuit
SUPERIOR, Wis. – On Wednesday, Aug. 16, multiple federal lawsuits were filed in Madison on behalf of 43 workers who claim they were poisoned by toxic lead exposure at Fraser Shipyards in Superior, Wisconsin last year, according to Rapoport Law Offices.
The lawsuits allege, the lead exposure was a result of work being done aboard the vessel Herbert C. Jackson, a 690 foot vessel that was undergoing dry-dock refurbishment work.
The lawsuit claims that Fraser Shipyards, Inc., Capstan Corporation, Northern Engineering Company, and The Interlake Steamship Company all contributed to creating inadequate and hazardous work environments. Fraser Shipyards and Northern Engineering Company, both based in Superior, are subsidiaries of Duluth-based, Capstan Corporation.
The litigation accuses, the companies involved of knowing about the hazardous and toxic environments these workers would be exposed to, but chose to skip the proper safety steps to avoid delays and added costs.
The case file claims that none of the workers were ever told they would be exposed to toxins, but that all were diagnosed with lead poisoning, after being tested, and some wokers were found to have a blood level more than 15 times higher than the level recognized by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as being harmful.
The CDC states that lead exposure can affect nearly every system in the body. Symptoms of lead poisoning for adults can appear as high blood pressure, joint and muscle pain, difficulties with memory or concentration, headache, abdominal pain, mood disorders, and reproductive complications, according to the Mayo Clinic.
OSHA has conducted several safety investigations in the past few years involving Fraser operations.
In late 2015, Capstan Corporation and Fraser Shipyards cut corners while attempting to load a new engine into the then 56-year-old vessel, as a way to save money. The companies decided to use a light-duty crane. The steel cables on the crane failed and the engine fell to the ground.
In March of 2016, OSHA halted work on the project altogether due to unsafe working conditions, including dangerous exposure to lead. This would be the first instance that workers would learn of their lead exposure. OSHA’s investigation led to 14 “willful eregious” health violations, the most dangerous OSHA classification. Five additional “willful” violations were also issued for failing to conduct monitoring to assess employee exposure to lead, failing to implement a lead compliance program or a respiratory protection program for lead and for failing to provide training on lead and asbestos hazards, according to the case file.
The lawsuits seek compensation for injuries as a result of the critically high levels of lead exposure, exposure to other toxins aboard the vessel, and punitive damages against the defendants for their intentional disregard for the workers’ safety.
Fraser Shipyards released the following statement:
“We have not seen or had a chance to review any additional litigation in this matter. We cannot comment on the allegations in the lawsuits until we have had the opportunity to do so.”