Beauwood California Inc., a golf club manufacturer in Santa Ana, has been cited by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration for exposing employees to a dangerous compound that can lead to cancer.
Beauwood was cited Thursday for 16 health and safety violations that could result in $30,200 in penalties. John Hermanson, acting area director for the federal agency's Long Beach office, said the company knowingly committed at least two violations.
"We feel they knew they were exposing their employees to the hazard and took no action to correct it," Hermanson said.
Beauwood spokesman Tracy Burkhardt said the firm believes that OSHA has overstated the extent of the problem. "We feel this has been grossly exaggerated," she said. Burkhardt declined to comment further.
Highly Toxic Beryllium
According to OSHA investigators, Beauwood's workers were exposed to a highly toxic metal called beryllium. Some golf clubs contain a beryllium-copper alloy that gives off a toxic dust when it is ground or polished.
Employees at Beauwood who ground or polished golf clubs were subject to conditions that could result in "eye disease, skin disease, respiratory irritation, irreversible lung damage, cancer or death," according to OSHA's citation.
Furthermore, the agency alleges that the company did not provide adequate medical care and safety equipment for its employees.
Burkhardt said the company has shut down its grinding operation. She would not say when it closed, or if the employees allegedly exposed to the chemicals in that division still work for the company.
Complaints by Workers
Some workers have complained of symptoms including chest pains, itching eyes and rashes on the arms, according to the citation.
OSHA said two employees were sent to a clinic in 1988 because of skin irritations and chest pains.
Two workers monitored on Feb. 9 by OSHA were found to have been exposed to least 4.5 times the permissible amount of beryllium.
The workers' families also may have been put at risk because beryllium sticks to clothing, OSHA said.
"These employees wore ordinary street clothes and they did not shower or change clothes before leaving the workplace," the citation says. "Beryllium may be carried home on work clothes, thus prolonging worker exposure and exposing family members."
Besides beryllium, OSHA found some workers were also at risk of lead contamination. "Their hands were discolored from the lead power," the citation says.
It also says lead contamination had been found on top of the company's lunch table and that traces of beryllium were found inside a refrigerator used by employees.
Beauwood has about 20 employees and was incorporated in August, 1976, according to state records and officials. Documents filed with the California secretary of state indicate the firm's president is Lawrence Y. Igarashi.
OSHA has given Beauwood 15 working days to file an appeal or correct the alleged hazards.