OSHA News Release - (Archived) Table of Contents|
Asbestos can cause lung cancer, other diseases
LATEST IN A SERIES OF SUCH CASES NATIONALLY
A Florida firm is being cited by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) today for violating asbestos removal standards in the latest of a series of cases that illustrate the need for focusing greater attention on the hazards asbestos poses for workers.
The latest case, in Delray Beach, Fla., involves an employer, John A. Bellavia construction company, using untrained laborers rather than an asbestos removal contractor to perform demolition work in areas where they were exposed to asbestos. Penalties totaling $100,800 were proposed against the Sunrise, Fla., based company for two alleged willful and four alleged serious violations of asbestos removal standards.
"Exposure to asbestos can cause serious illnesses such as lung cancer and asbestosis," said Secretary of Labor Alexis M. Herman. "Workers who handle asbestos must be properly trained in its removal. There is no excuse for an employer to expose workers needlessly to such dangers."
OSHA Administrator Charles N. Jeffress noted a series of recent cases where workers had been exposed to asbestos fiber, often used to insulate older buildings. The Justice Department recently indicted three Wisconsin men, who were accused of bringing untrained workers from a Chattanooga, Tenn., homeless shelter to their state to illegally remove asbestos from a building being demolished. Attorney General Janet Reno said that there have been nine other prosecutions in other states involving the hiring of untrained workers, often homeless people or unwary teenagers, to rip out asbestos.
"The improper removal of asbestos is a threat to the worker, and OSHA cannot allow any employer to jeopardize the health and safety of its workers," said Jeffress.
Last June OSHA, the health and safety arm of the U.S. Department of Labor, cited seven contractors and proposed penalties totaling $1,650,325 for violating asbestos and lead standards during a demolition and salvage project at the site of the former Greater Pittsburgh International Airport.
OSHA's Fort Lauderdale area office began an inspection of the Bellavia firm after receiving a referral from the Palm Beach County Health Department concerning ten workers being exposed to asbestos on the Delray Beach demolition project.
Following the inspection, OSHA fined the construction firm $84,000 for two willful violations of asbestos standards. The employer violated the standards by not conducting asbestos removal work within a regulated area and not training employees about the dangers of asbestos and the precautions required to protect them from asbestos hazards.
An additional penalty of $16,800 was proposed for four serious asbestos removal violations. These included failure to:
determine airborne concentrations of asbestos to which employees were exposed;
provide respiratory protection, protective clothing, and decontamination areas for employees exposed to asbestos;
use work practices to reduce airborne asbestos and asbestos contamination, and
properly label and dispose of waste containing asbestos.
Evidence gathered by OSHA revealed that Bellavia was informed prior to beginning work that the building contained asbestos. Bellavia faxed a building survey to an asbestos removal company that listed the sources, locations and amount of asbestos in the building.
A willful violation is 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.
John Bellavia has 15 working days to contest OSHA's citations and proposed penalties before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.
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