City fined after investigation revealed it didn’t provide gun range staff with proper PPE

The citation also stated the city had not measured airborne concentrations of lead at the site in 30 years.
Published: Feb. 20, 2023 at 5:31 PM HST|Updated: Feb. 20, 2023 at 7:35 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - The city of Honolulu has been fined thousands of dollars after a worker safety investigation revealed staff at Oahu’s only public gun range weren’t supplied with or required to wear proper personal protective equipment while cleaning the facility.

Koko Head Shooting Complex abruptly closed last September after tests revealed almost every employee had lead levels above the normal range.

As work to improve safety at Koko Head Shooting Complex continues, results of a state-led investigation are shedding light on city practices that may have put the range staff’s health at risk.

Hawaii’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration issued the city a citation after discovering there was no policy requiring workers to wear personal protective equipment while cleaning the range — tasks like sweeping, wiping down the gallery and picking up shell casings.

All of which, experts say, have the potential to expose workers to lead.

The citation also stated the city had not measured airborne concentrations of lead at the site in 30 years.

In September, the city closed Koko Head Shooting Complex after tests revealed nine out of 10 workers tested had lead levels above the normal range.

“Once the employer knows that they have a hazard to their employees, they’re obligated to communicate that hazard to their employees. And they’re also obligated to make sure that it doesn’t pose an undue risk or a serious risk to them,” said Todd King, environmental engineering expert.

Internal emails obtained by Hawaii News Now through an open records request revealed the city was aware of multiple lead hazards throughout the complex.

Prior to a cleanup in 2020, tests showed 21 out of 24 samples taken from benches and shooting tables contained unsafe levels of lead.

Additional samples obtained from asphalt walkways also tested above the safety threshold.

The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health recommends skin protection, eye protection, and NIOSH-approved respirators be provided to workers involved in cleaning lead-contaminated surfaces and areas.

The federal agency says floor mats, knee pads, and shoe covers should also be available to limit transfer of lead to clothing.

The city said in a statement it’s not contesting the citation and will pay the nearly $4,500 fine.

In addition to working with a private contractor to make sure appropriate safety policies are in place the director of Honolulu’s Park’s Department says it’s also conducting what it calls lead awareness training for all range staff.

“We’re going through the training with our employees so we will be meeting all of the OSHA regulartory requirements,” said Laura Thielen.

We’re told the plan is to reopen the facility in phases.

The archery range will be first. Followed by the rifle, pistol and HPD’s action ranges sometime in April.

Thielen said, “We just want to make sure the improvements that we do here are safe. That we have a range that the public is safe to come into and that’s safe for our workers as well.”

The city says it has been conducting air sampling to make sure the work currently underway isn’t stirring up lead dust. So far none has been detected.