October 19, 2016 CORRECTED
OSHA inspectors responding to report of workers sickened by carbon monoxide,
finds dangerous asbestos exposure, other hazards at nursing home renovation
NEW GLARUS, Wis. - After five employees became ill from carbon monoxide exposure as they renovated a New Glarus nursing home, federal safety inspectors responding to the scene found their employer also exposed the workers to asbestos hazards.
U.S. Department of Labor Occupational Safety and Health Administration inspectors determined A&A Environmental Inc. failed to monitor carbon monoxide exposure for workers inside an asbestos containment area, and violated required procedures for safe handling of the dangerous known carcinogen. A local hospital later treated the five employees sickened by the gas exposure on April 19, 2016.
On Oct. 19, 2016, OSHA issued four willful and nine serious health violations to the Poynette-based company. A&A faces proposed fines of $243,716. The agency found workers' exposure exceeded 50 parts per million over an eight hour time-weighted average and that the company failed to implement engineering controls to reduce employee exposure.
"A company like A&A Environmental that specializes in asbestos abatement should be setting the standard in employee protection while handling known carcinogenic material," said Ann Grevenkamp, OSHA's area director in Madison. "No worker should ever become sick on the job or suffer long-term health issues because their employer failed to take the necessary precautions to protect them."
Asbestos exposure occurs when workers cut, sand, remove and/or disturb asbestos containing materials, releasing asbestos fibers that can be inhaled without proper protection. Asbestos can cause lung disease and mesothelioma, a cancer of the lining of the lung or stomach that is often fatal. Asbestos fibers also remain on clothing and transfer to other surfaces such as upholstery and carpets, creating a danger of secondary exposure for others.
In its citations, OSHA alleges that A&A Environmental failed to:
- Provide a separate room for asbestos containment equipment.
- Create a decontamination area with a separate area for employees to shower and remove work clothing before leaving the worksite.
- Ensure employees did not consume beverages inside an asbestos containment area.
- Monitor worksites for carbon monoxide exposure.
- Train workers on carbon monoxide hazards.
- Smoke test the containment area and glove bags used to contain asbestos.
- Provide ground fault circuit interrupters inside containment areas where wet techniques are used for asbestos removal.
- Provide medical evaluation and fit-testing for employees required to use respirators.
The company has 15 business days from receipt of its citations and penalties to contest the findings before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.
To ask questions, obtain compliance assistance, file a complaint, or report amputations, eye loss, workplace hospitalizations, fatalities or situations posing imminent danger to workers, the public should call OSHA's toll-free hotline at 800-321-OSHA (6742) or the agency's Madison office at 608-441-5388.
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 ensure these conditions for America's working men and women by setting and enforcing standards, and providing training, education and assistance. For more information, visit http://www.osha.gov.
Editor's note: The name of the company has been changed in this news release because it was incorrectly reported in a prior version.
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Release Number: 16-2046-CHI