Scrap metal plant fined $311k for ‘serious’ health, safety violations

The exterior of the TAV Holdings Inc. building at 3311 Empire Boulevard SW is shown on Wednesday, January 26, 2022. A recent OSHA investigation uncovered dangerous conditions at the workplace, which was previously cited by the EPA for a host of violations. (Hyosub Shin / Hyosub.Shin@ajc.com)

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The exterior of the TAV Holdings Inc. building at 3311 Empire Boulevard SW is shown on Wednesday, January 26, 2022. A recent OSHA investigation uncovered dangerous conditions at the workplace, which was previously cited by the EPA for a host of violations. (Hyosub Shin / Hyosub.Shin@ajc.com)

South Atlanta facility run by TAV Holdings Inc. was also cited for federal pollution violations.

An Atlanta scrap metal facility that drew the attention of federal environmental regulators earlier this year was cited by U.S. Department of Labor investigators for a host of alleged workplace violations, including failing to keep surfaces clear of lead and exposing employees to other dangers, including possible amputation.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has proposed fines totaling more than $311,000 against the company, TAV Holdings Inc. Its plant is located on Empire Boulevard, near Crawford W. Long Middle School in the Glenrose Heights neighborhood of south Atlanta.

OSHA also issued separate citations against XL MachineWorks LLC, a contractor that operated on the TAV site.

TAV’s facility processes auto parts and other metal scraps bound for landfills, which it breaks down to salvage what it can resell.

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In the package of citations levied against the company, OSHA detailed roughly 30 “serious” violations. OSHA investigators found that lead and cadmium were allowed to accumulate on surfaces in the plant’s lab, exposing some employees to the potentially hazardous heavy metals. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, repeated lead exposure has been connected to high blood pressure, heart disease, kidney disease, and reduced fertility.

TAV conducts a medical surveillance program for certain employees, as required by OSHA, according to a spokeswoman for the company.

Investigators also found the facility took few precautions to keep employees safe from getting caught in the heavy machinery used to process scrap metal, or to properly label hazardous chemicals used on site. According to the OSHA citation, inspectors found that on multiple occasions, “the employer exposed employees to hazards that could result in amputations.”

TAV is planning legal challenges to some of the alleged violations, but committed to working with OSHA going forward, the spokeswoman said.

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“TAV maintains a desire to improve any potential issues identified by OSHA and fully cooperated with the inspectors,” the company said in a statement. “The facility has been correcting and addressing OSHA concerns noted throughout the inspections and has made tremendous steps while ensuring day-to-day safety during these improvements.”

TAV’s Empire Boulevard facility is still processing existing scrap metal located on the site, but is not receiving new material, the representative said.

TAV Holdings has been on regulators’ radar for years.

In January, the federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued an emergency order warning that hazardous waste escaping from the TAV site could pose an “imminent and substantial endangerment” to the surrounding community. The agency required the company to cease all activity that could result in further releases.

An EPA investigation into hazardous waste stemming from the TAV plant did not find evidence of soil contamination on the campus of Long Middle School, which backs up directly to the facility. The EPA did find high levels of lead and other heavy metals in an unnamed creek that runs between the school and TAV’s plant. The creek eventually connects to the South River.

EPA spokeswoman Davina Marraccini said that the agency was continuing to oversee the company’s compliance with the terms of that order.

Other TAV facilities have also been cited by OSHA in the past for grave safety concerns. In 2019, a welder at the company’s plant in Greenville, Georgia was struck and killed in a forklift accident. The company was later fined $112,000 in a follow-up investigation, which found that even after the fatal accident, TAV had failed to make necessary safety improvements.