Former USA Brass employee speaks out about working conditions


BOZEMAN, Mont. - A former employee of a Bozeman business is speaking out after the company, USA Brass, was raided by the federal government.

We told you how federal agents from the Environmental Protection Agency's Criminal Division and the FBI raided USA Brass last Thursday.

The company, which cleans and resells used ammunition casings, first got into trouble last year after inspectors from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) fined the company $45,500 for safety violations related to lead.

A month later, the Gallatin City County Health department issued an alert, warning that 22 people -- most current or former workers at USA Brass -- tested positive for elevated levels of lead.

Last week, the feds swooped in and raided the business, but were tight-lipped on why. The former employee, who wanted to remain anonymous, said when he found out USA Brass had been raided by the FBI, he wasn't surprised.

He told NBC Montana he experienced unsafe conditions while working there.

"It was loud, there was a lot of dust in the air," the former employee explained, of working conditions at the company. He told us he worked there until last fall.

"What I did was sort bullet shell casings all day," he said. "They gave us gloves to wear. They did have signs up that said 'hearing protection required' but they didn't enforce it."

He described safety and environmental issues he noticed while he was there, saying "They would use cement mixers and polish their shell casings with...some cleaning chemicals, and they would dump their waste water into a huge bin, and take the forklift, lift it up go outside and dump it in the grass outside."

The former employee said it seemed like no one did anything to fix it.

"My experience with the company is they would turn a blind eye," he said.

The former employee was there last September when OSHA fined the company, but the man claimed USA Brass was not upfront about what happened, and he was surprised to learn he may have been exposed to high amounts of lead.

"I just got dirty," he explained, "and didn't realize it was dirt and lead so I'm a little upset about that."

The former worker did say after the OSHA incident, management took steps to fix the problems.

"They started making us wear hearing protection, started making us wear breath masks, made sure we were wearing gloves," he said.

Though it is still unclear if the federal raid is directly related to those issues, the former employee said he was not surprised when he learned about the raid, based on what he experienced.

NBC Montana called USA Brass Tuesday afternoon to get their side of the story. We were told we would receive a call back, but have not heard anything yet.

We checked the Federal Court website on Tuesday, and there are currently no official charges filed against USA Brass.