SUPERIOR — Fraser Shipyards has settled lawsuits involving dozens of workers who were exposed to lead while working on an old freighter in Superior, the company said Thursday.
Fraser has agreed to pay $7.5 million to more than 60 workers who were exposed to lead paint. The workers were involved in a 2016 engine repowering project for the freighter Herbert C. Jackson at Fraser's Superior yards. They were converting the freighter's old boiler and steam power system to diesel when they were exposed to the lead, according to Fraser spokesman Rob Karwath.
The first of the three federal lawsuits had been scheduled for trial in December.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration cited Fraser for numerous 2016 work violations and fined it $1.4 million. OSHA later reduced that penalty to $700,000 as part of a settlement in which Fraser adopted a new safety plan.
"We believe that this settlement, which resolves all outstanding claims, is in the best interests of all parties," said James Farkas, president and chief operating officer of Fraser Industries, the parent company of Fraser Shipyards.
"This agreement, and earlier settlement agreements with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration reached with input from unions representing our workers, ensures that we can move forward with a strong commitment to employee protection and business viability, in partnership with OSHA and everyone who earns a living at our 126-year-old family-owned company in Superior." Farkas said in a statement.
Fraser Shipyards is the last major independent shipyard on the U.S. side of the Great Lakes.