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Asbestos can cause lung cancer, other diseases
Interstate Brands Corp.(IBC), manufacturer of bakery snacks such as "Twinkies," today was cited by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) for numerous violations of regulations to protect workers during asbestos removal. OSHA proposed penalties totaling $910,000.
The alleged willful violations occurred in January 1998 at IBC's plant in Schiller Park, Illinois. IBC, with headquarters in Kansas City, Mo., has about 370 employees at the Schiller Park plant and 32,000 nationwide. The IBC case is the latest in a series of cases that illustrate the need for focusing greater attention on the hazards asbestos poses for workers.
OSHA, which investigated the plant in response to an employee's telephone complaint, found that three employees were assigned to remove thermal insulation, containing 75 percent asbestos, from a boiler. The employees were not told that the insulation contained asbestos.
"Exposure to asbestos can cause serious illnesses such as lung cancer and asbestosis. Workers who remove asbestos must be properly trained and the employer must take proper precautions to minimize their exposure," said Secretary of Labor Alexis M. Herman. "There is no excuse for any employer exposing unprotected and unknowing workers to this hazardous substance."
IBC was cited for 13 alleged willful violations, each with a maximum proposed penalty of $70,000.
"Stiff penalties are warranted in a case such as this, where the employer permitted the health of employees to be seriously threatened by the improper removal of the asbestos," said Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health Charles N. Jeffress, who heads OSHA.
The willful citations included failure to:
establish a regulated area where employees removed asbestos insulation;
follow pertinent work practice control measures, such as wet methods, use of high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filter vacuums, prompt cleanup and disposal of waste and debris;
provide appropriate respirators and protective clothing to employees performing asbestos removal;
provide a competent person to supervise asbestos removal activities;
conduct air monitoring to determine worker exposure to asbestos during removal;
provide decontamination facilities for employees performing removal;
identify and inform employees of the asbestos materials present in the workplace;
label material in the workplace and the waste generated from insulation removal as asbestos-containing;
dispose of asbestos waste properly; and
provide training to employees regarding the hazards and protective measures to be used during asbestos removal.
Other recent cases where workers have been exposed to asbestos fiber hazards include several Justice Department prosecutions involving the hiring of untrained workers, often homeless people or unwary teenagers, to rip out asbestos; OSHA citations against seven contractors for violating asbestos and lead standards during a demolition and salvage project at the former Greater Pittsburgh Airport; and OSHA citations against a construction firm in Delray Beach, Fla., that used untrained laborers to perform asbestos removal.
Willful violations are those committed with an intentional disregard of, or plain indifference to, the requirements of the Occupational Safety and Health Act and regulations.
The company has 15 working days to contest the citations and proposed penalties before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.
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