Company fined nearly $500K for asbestos hazards

Asbestosinsulation

Three workers removing thermal pipe insulation at an unoccupied residence in Pennsylvania were exposed to these serious risks because their employer failed to protect them properly.

OSHA inspectors found that their employer, an environmental services company that provides asbestos abatement, lead abatement, and insulation installation services, regularly exposed employees to asbestos hazards.

“Asbestos exposure can cause chronic lung disease and cancer. With the right safeguards, employees can be protected from these deadly hazards,” said Kevin Kilp, director of OSHA’s area office in Harrisburg. “We found employees removing insulation containing asbestos without first wetting the material, which reduces the danger of exposure. A little water could have made all the difference and the company knew this.”

The company faces a $490,000 penalty for seven willful violations, including allowing workers to remove asbestos improperly; failing to make sure their employees’ respirators fit correctly; and not decontaminating employees and their clothing before leaving the work site.

The clothing of workers who handle asbestos creates a significant risk for secondary exposure. Its microscopic particles can easily attach to hair, skin and clothes. If the worker and his clothing are not properly cleaned before leaving the work site, others with whom the worker has contact risk secondary exposure. A worker who fails to change out of asbestos-contaminated clothing before returning home can leave fibers embedded in couches, chairs, carpets, beds and other furniture.

Nearly invisible to the eye, asbestos fibers can literally take someone’s breath away. Fibers in the air can be inhaled unknowingly and trapped in the lungs. Regular exposure to asbestos can cause serious respiratory illness and several forms of cancer.

OSHA requires employers to treat thermal system insulation and surfacing material found in buildings constructed before and in 1980 as asbestos, unless they can prove that the material is free of asbestos. In this inspection, the building was built in 1928, and the company made no attempt to test the removed materials.

 

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