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Asbestos removal errors lead to OSHA penalties

Last week we reported on a California company that faced more than $100,000 in fines due to mishaps while removing materials that contained asbestos fibers. Essentially they failed to water down such materials to prevent fine particles from being ingested by workers.

The story was important because removal mistakes are common ways for unwitting workers in Ohio to be exposed to dangerous materials, and for them to contract mesothelioma later in life.

In another example, an Albany, New York company faces $83,000 in fines for exposing workers to asbestos during a construction project. The Occupation Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) conducted an inspection and found that the firm failed to conduct an initial project assessment to determine whether the workers could be exposed to roofing material containing asbestos.

Also, the company did not use the wetting methods prescribed in asbestos removal protocols to ensure that workers would not breathe in dangerous particles. The investigation also found that workers did not have protective eye and headwear. Overall, OSHA found that the failure to complete an initial assessment was the most egregious error, classifying it as having "intentional, knowing or voluntary disregard for the law's requirements, or with plain indifference to worker safety and health."

As we have said before, employers have a legal duty to create (and maintain) safe working environments for their employees. If they fail to take appropriate steps to promote safety, and these failures lead to employees being injured, they can be held legally responsible. A number of mesothelioma cases begin with workers unknowingly being exposed to dangerous materials. While administrative fines can help keep companies compliant, injured workers still have a right to seek compensation.

Source: Times, Asbestos removal firm faces over $83,000 in safety fines, January 22, 2013

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