Wed., Feb. 25, 2009
Contact: Ted Fitzgerald
U.S. Labor Department's OSHA proposes $273,000 in fines against Jamestown, N.Y., employer for lack of asbestos safeguards
BUFFALO, N.Y. -- The U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) cited Blackstone Business Enterprises Inc. of Jamestown, N.Y., for 18 alleged willful and serious violations of OSHA standards for failing to protect contract employees against asbestos hazards.
The sheet metal and structural steel fabricator faces $273,000 in proposed fines for failing to provide required safeguards for temporary employees who were hired to remove asbestos-containing insulation from steam pipes at the company's Blackstone Avenue plant.
"The sizable fines proposed here reflect the fact that this company knew several of these critical safeguards were necessary yet chose not to provide them," said Arthur Dube, OSHA's area director in Buffalo. "Inhalation of asbestos fibers by workers may lead to lung disease and other disorders. That is why it is essential that effective protective measures be in place and in use whenever necessary. One means of identifying and preventing hazards such as these is to develop and maintain an effective safety and health management system."
Specifically, Blackstone did not perform air monitoring to determine the level of asbestos exposure nor did it provide workers with respirators, protective clothing and asbestos training. These conditions resulted in four willful citations, carrying $224,000 in proposed fines. OSHA defines a willful violation as one committed with plain indifference to or intentional disregard for employee safety and health.
The company also has been issued 14 serious citations, with $49,000 in fines, for failing to determine the presence, location and quantity of asbestos-containing material; establish a regulated work area; properly clean and dispose of asbestos-containing material and contaminated clothing; inform employees and tenants of the asbestos removal; label asbestos-containing insulation and trash bags; and have the work overseen by a competent person. OSHA issues serious citations when death or serious physical harm is likely to result from hazards about which the employer knew or should have known.
The company has 15 business days from receipt of the citations to comply, request an informal conference with OSHA's area director in Buffalo or contest the citations and penalties before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission. Detailed information on asbestos is available on OSHA's Web site at: http://www.osha.gov/SLTC/asbestos/index.html and http://www.osha.gov/SLTC/asbestos/construction.html. Employers and employees with questions about workplace safety may call the agency's Buffalo Area Office at 716-551-3053; a toll-free hotline at 800-321-6742 may be used to report workplace accidents, fatalities or situations posing imminent danger to workers.
Under the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970, employers are responsible for providing a safe and healthy workplace for their employees. OSHA's role is to promote the safety and health of America's working men and women by setting and enforcing standards; providing training, outreach and education; establishing partnerships; and encouraging continual process improvement in workplace safety and health. For more information, visit www.osha.gov.
U.S. Department of Labor releases are accessible on the Internet at www.dol.gov. The information in this news release will be made available in alternate format (large print, Braille, audiotape or disc) from the COAST office upon request. Please specify which news release when placing your request at 202-693-7828 or TTY 202-693-7755. The Labor Department is committed to providing America's employers and employees with easy access to understandable information on how to comply with its laws and regulations. For more information, please visit www.dol.gov/compliance.