Asbestos Exposure Threatens Employees' Health, Results in Fine

April 12, 2012

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A Chicago company has been slapped with a $127,000 fine for improper asbestos removal, which has been known to lead to mesothelioma, a fatal cancer.

Our asbestos exposure attorneys are encouraged to see that the U.S. Occupational Safety & Health Administration is proactively going after companies that are irresponsible and trying to save money by putting workers and the public at risk. However, we're concerned that this is even still necessary.

By now, companies should be well aware of the severe harm that comes with asbestos exposure and of their responsibility to handle it according to 15 U.S.C. 2601. Asbestos is a mineral that had been often used in construction and building materials, cars and even clothing - chiefly for its fire-resistant properties. Because it used to be used in practically everything, construction companies need to proceed as if it is present to protect workers until they prove otherwise.

The health effects include:

  • Asbestosis, which is a long-term disease that causes lung scarring and irritation;
  • Lung cancer, which is a deadly cancer characterized by coughing, shortness of breath and chest pains;
  • Mesothelioma, which is a deadly cancer attacking the lungs, heart and abdomen and doesn't show signs for years or even decades - often, leaving patients with less than a year to live by the time there is a diagnosis.

Because of the inherent dangers, the Department of Environmental Protection has set up very specific guidelines with regard to how asbestos must be handled and removed.

In this case, the Chicago metal and plastic distribution company, A.M. Castle & Co., was found to be in violation of 22 major health regulations, which resulted in exposing workers to a hazardous environment.

According to OSHA's press release, the workers suffered asbestos exposure while they were removing insulation at a work site in Franklin Park. None of the workers were equipped with the proper safety gear. OSHA's standards require that employers must limit their workers' exposure to asbestos to 0.2 fibers per cubic centimeter of air throughout the course of an eight-hour shift. Additionally, they have to provide approved and effective respiratory gear and protective clothing. They also have to keep careful records and monitor the exposure levels.

It doesn't appear that was done in this case, leaving workers vulnerable to serious lung diseases.

OSHA has recommended a fine of nearly $130,000.

The specific violations include:

  • Failing to pinpoint the presence, location and amount of material that contained asbestos;
  • Failing to properly label and affix warnings on asbestos-containing pipes;
  • Failing to designate an area for safe asbestos removal;
  • Failing to monitor their employees for asbestos exposure levels;
  • Failing to use a vacuum or air filter to collect debris and dust during the removal process;
  • Failing to train its employees on asbestos removal;
  • Failing to provide respirators to employees;
  • Failing to provide protective clothing for workers or a decontamination area.

These are all considered serious violations, and they involve the assertion that employer either knew or should have known that what they were doing - or not doing - put their workers at serious risk.

Most of today and tomorrow's mesothelioma victims were also exposed in the workplace. Not because they were removing asbestos, but because they were unwittingly exposed over a prolonged period of time by employers who knew better. Many worked in manufacturing processes where asbestos was used. Others worked as mechanics, builders, or trade laborers who were exposed through the many products that contained asbestos.

The Ferraro Law Firm provides comprehensive legal services, including for victims of mesothelioma. Call 1-800-275-3332 for a free and confidential consultation. Offices in Miami, Washington, D.C., and New York City.

Additional Resources:
OSHA hits A.M. Castle with $127K asbestos fine, By Becky Yerak, The Chicago Tribune

More Blog Entries:
U.S. Troops and Veterans At Risk For Mesothelioma, Feb. 14, 2012, Mesothelioma Lawyers Blog