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News Release USDL: 97-206
Tuesday, June 17, 1997
Contact: Bill Wright, (202) 219-8151
Seven contractors cited during airport demolition project in Pittsburgh
Asbestos And Lead Violations Bring $1.7 Million In Proposed Penalties
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) today issued citations with proposed penalties totaling $1,650,325 to seven contractors for allegedly violating asbestos and lead standards during a demolition and salvage project at the site of the former Greater Pittsburgh International Airport terminal.
HDR Engineering, Inc. of Omaha, Neb., the project's construction manager for Allegheny County, the property owner, received 22 willful violations, and one serious citation, for a total of $1,397,000 in proposed penalties. The remaining $253,325 in proposed penalties resulted from citations issued to an engineering firm and five subcontractors.
"The general contractor in this project knew the existence and location of lead and asbestos in the terminal, knew the dangers of exposure and knew of the requirements for personal protective equipment for exposed workers," said Acting Assistant Secretary of Labor Gregory R. Watchman, who heads OSHA. "HDR also possessed plans that specifically detailed precautionary measures to safely remove asbestos-containing material, but the company ignored the measures and sent dozens of workers into the terminal at their peril. This demonstrates blatant disregard for worker safety."
HDR was originally hired to plan the asbestos abatement and demolition of the old airport terminal building, first opened in 1953. Project plans called for removing the asbestos and lead hazards prior to the commencement of actual demolition operations. However, Allegheny County approved HDR's proposal to allow contractors to salvage equipment, furniture and metals, including copper pipes and aluminum window frames prior to removing the asbestos and lead from the building.
OSHA's inspection, resulting from referral by the Environmental Protection Agency, revealed that asbestos-containing material, including sprayed on fireproofing, pipe insulation, plaster, window caulking and floor tiles, as well as lead bearing paint was grossly disturbed during the salvage operation, yet the companies failed to protect their workers from exposure to these hazards. Approximately 60 construction workers were exposed to both lead and asbestos during this construction project.
The instance-by-instance willful violations proposed against HDR involve violations of the construction asbestos standard, including failure to ensure that exposed employees were adequately trained in the hazards of asbestos and, as the general contractor, failure to ensure required compliance by other contractors on the project. Citations issued include failure to make an initial exposure assessment and failure to ensure that employees were not exposed to asbestos fibers in excess of OSHA's exposure limits. Additional violations include lack of respiratory protection, protective clothing or a decontamination area, and allowing employees to eat and smoke in areas exposed to asbestos fibers.
HDR also received violations of the construction lead standard for failure to make an initial determination of lead exposure and failure to provide respirators, protective clothing, a change area or hand washing facilities. Citations were also issued for failing to ensure employees working around live electrical circuits were adequately protected from electrocution hazards.
I.C.F. Kaiser Corp., Fairfax, Va., an engineering firm which acted as a gatekeeper during the final two weeks, received two willful citations with proposed penalties of $110,000, alleging failure to perform asbestos exposure monitoring, and failure to train employees regarding lead hazards. The following subcontractors each received serious citations for alleged lead and asbestos violations: Menzock Scrap, Inc., Pittsburgh, Pa. ($55,200 proposed penalty); JK Salvage, Glassport, Pa. ($57,900); Geneva College, Beaver Falls, Pa. ($17,250); Montour Development Co., Coraopolis, Pa. ($7,800 ); and Halama Brothers Electrical, Inc., Monaca, Pa. ($5,175).
Willful violations are those committed with an intentional disregard of, or plain indifference to, the requirements of the OSH Act and regulations.
A serious violation is defined as one in which there is substantial probability that death or serious physical harm could result, and the employer knew or should have known of the hazard.
Each 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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