Region 1 News Release: BOS 98-201
Thursday, October 22, 1998
Contact: Ted Fitzgerald, (617) 565-2074
OSHA PROPOSES $94,000 IN PENALTIES AGAINST FARMINGTON, MAINE, EMPLOYER FOR ALLEGED WILLFUL AND SERIOUS VIOLATIONS INVOLVING REMOVAL OF ASBESTOS-CONTAINING MATERIALS
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) of the U.S. Labor Department has proposed $94,000 in penalties against Franklin Shoe Company of Farmington, Maine, for alleged Willful and Serious violations of the Occupational Safety and Health Act during a renovation project conducted earlier this year at its Lower Main Street shoe manufacturing plant. OSHA also cited Farmington Construction Co., a Farmington, Maine, sub-contractor performing the renovation work, for alleged Serious and Other than Serious violations and proposed a $900 fine.
According to C. William Freeman III, OSHA area director for Maine, the alleged violations were discovered during an inspection initiated April 17, 1998, in response to an employee complaint and concern inadequate protections for employees of both companies who were potentially exposed to asbestos during the removal of asbestos-containing floor tiles.
"Franklin Shoe directed and oversaw the renovation work and thus had overall responsibility for ensuring that health and safety standards were met and proper work practices followed," said Freeman. "OSHA's inspection found Franklin Shoe has not provided or implemented basic safeguards designed to protect both its own employees and the contractor employees who were removing asbestos containing floor tiles."
Freeman explained that asbestos is often composed of minute airborne fibers which can be inhaled by workers. Continued exposure to airborne concentrations of asbestos can result in such diseases as asbestosis (a scarring of the lungs leading to loss of lung functions), mesothelioma (a cancer affecting the membranes lining the lungs), and cancers of the esophagus, stomach, colon and rectum.
OSHA's asbestos in construction standard mandates numerous safeguards to protect workers engaged in asbestos removal. For Class II removal (which covers the removal of floor tiles), those required protections include exposure monitoring, isolating the work area, providing appropriate respiratory protection, employee training, safe work practices, informing workers about the asbestos and its removal, and having the work overseen by a competent person.
In this case, OSHA alleges that Franklin Shoe Company failed to comply with OSHA's asbestos standard in that the company:
failed to inform Farmington Construction employees of the presence of asbestos-containing floor tiles in the renovation area and failed to inform Franklin Shoe employees as to the removal of those tiles;
failed to establish and mark off a regulated work area for removal of the floor tiles and failed to use barriers to isolate said area from the rest of the facility;
failed to provide a cleanup room where workers removing the tiles could decontaminate their tools and work clothing;
failed to supply those workers with respiratory protection;
failed to determine the presence of and measure levels of airborne concentrations of asbestos and failed to conduct initial and periodic monitoring of employee exposure to asbestos;
allowed clean up of asbestos residue with a shop vacuum that was not equipped with a required HEPA filter;
did not use wet methods to clean up residue, allowed dry sweeping as a cleanup method, and permitted dry scraping and dry chipping of the asbestos containing tiles;
disposed of asbestos-containing materials in garbage bags rather than required leak-tight impermeable bags;
did not remove asbestos-containing tiles in an intact state;
did not post required warning signs;
failed to provide training for employees removing asbestos-containing tiles;
did not have a competent person (one with knowledge and authority to identify and correct asbestos hazards) in charge of removing the asbestos-containing material.
Freeman explained that the considerable size of the fine proposed against Franklin Shoe reflects both the number and severity of the alleged hazards and OSHA's classification of two of the citations as Willful, the most severe category of OSHA citations. OSHA issues Willful citations only when it believes based on its inspection that the employer knew what specific safeguards were required to protect workers yet apparently elected not to provide them.
Farmington Construction Co. was cited for alleged Serious and Other than Serious violations, with a proposed fine of $900, for lack of employee training in Class II asbestos removal operations, improper cleanup and disposal of asbestos containing material, and the lack of adequate monitoring, respiratory protection, regulated area, cleanup room and a competent person to oversee asbestos removal.
Freeman urged Maine employers and employees with questions regarding workplace safety and health standards to contact the OSHA area offices in Bangor or Augusta and added that OSHA's toll-free, nationwide hotline --1-800-321-OSHA (1-800-321-6742)-- may be used to report workplace accidents or fatalities or situations posing imminent danger to workers, especially if they occur outside of normal business hours.
A willful violation is defined by OSHA as one committed with an intentional disregard of, or plain indifference to, the requirements of the Occupational Safety and Health Act and regulations.
A serious violation is defined as one in which there is a substantial probability that death or serious physical harm could result, and the employer knew, or should have known, of the hazard.
An other-than-serious violation is a condition which would probably not cause death or serious physical harm but would have a direct and immediate relationship to the safety and health of employees.
OSHA is empowered by the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970 to issue standards and rules requiring employers to provide their employees with safe and healthful workplaces and jobsites, and to assure through workplace inspections that those standards are followed.
The company has 15 working days from receipt of the citations and proposed penalties to either elect to comply with them, to request and participate in an informal conference with the OSHA area director, or to contest them before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.
[Note: a breakdown of the citations and proposed penalties by category is attached]
The information in this release will be made available to sensory impaired individuals upon request. Voice phone: (617) 565-2072. TDD (Telecommunications Device for the Deaf) Message Referral Phone: 800-347-8029.