Tues., Dec. 4, 2007
Contact: Ted Fitzgerald
BUFFALO, N.Y. -- Responding to employee complaints, the U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) found employees of a Rochester, N.Y., contractor exposed to asbestos hazards while performing demolition work at the Old Genesee Hospital in Rochester.
As a result, the employer, Gordon-Smith Contracting Inc., was cited for 10 alleged willful and serious violations of OSHA asbestos and respiratory protection standards and faces a total of $99,925 in proposed fines.
Gordon-Smith employees were required to remove ceiling tiles and other materials that were embedded in or adjacent to asbestos-containing fireproofing without proper safeguards. Specifically, wet methods or wetting agents were not used to control asbestos exposures, the employees were not supplied with approved respirators, and they had not been trained in asbestos removal.
"This employer knows these safeguards are required to protect employees against asbestos exposure yet elected to not provide them," said Arthur Dube, OSHA's area director in Buffalo. "Gordon-Smith's failure to do so placed its employees' health at serious risk. Asbestos is a subtle and insidious hazard since its effects can accumulate over time, leading to serious, disabling and fatal diseases of the lungs and other organs."
The company consequently was issued three willful citations, accounting for $87,000 of the proposed fines, for these conditions. A willful violation is one committed with plain indifference to or intentional disregard for employee safety and health.
Seven serious citations, carrying $12,925 in proposed fines, were issued to the company for other conditions, including not ensuring that each employee wore the appropriate respiratory, hand and head protection; not immediately mending or replacing ripped or torn protective worksuits; no written respirator program; no qualified administrator for a respirator program; and not informing employees of the results of asbestos monitoring. A serious citation is issued when death or serious physical harm is likely to result from a hazard about which the employer knew or should have known.
Detailed information on asbestos is available on OSHA's Web site at www.osha.gov/SLTC/asbestos/index.html and an asbestos fact sheet is available at www.osha.gov/OshDoc/data_AsbestosFacts/asbestos-factsheet.pdf.
Gordon-Smith has 15 business days from receipt of its citations to request and participate in an informal conference with OSHA or to contest them before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission. The inspection was conducted by OSHA's Buffalo Area Office (telephone 716-551-3053).
Under the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970, employers are responsible for providing safe and healthful workplaces for their employees. OSHA's role is to assure 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 upon request (large print, Braille, audio tape or disc) from the COAST office. Please specify which news release when placing your request. Call (202) 693-7765 or TTY (202) 693-7755. DOL 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.