OSHA levies steep fines on company that exposed workers to asbestos
An Illinois company was ordered to pay more than $1.2 million in fines for failing to protect workers who were exposed to asbestos-laced materials during an abatement project.
The penalties levied against AMD Industries by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration totaled $1,247,400. OSHA said the Cicero, Ill. company began an asbestos removal project in November 2010 using five in-house workers who were not provided with the proper training, protective clothing and equipment. The workers allegedly were exposed to materials containing 20-50 percent asbestos, OSHA said.
If products containing asbestos are disturbed, tiny fibers released into the air may get trapped in the lungs, which can cause scarring and inflammation, leading to serious health problems. Exposure to asbestos increases the risk of mesothelioma, asbestosis, lung cancer and other nonmalignant lung and pleural disorders.
"AMD Industries knew it was assigning workers to asbestos removal work and failed to take the most basic safety precautions,” said OSHA Assistant Secretary David Michaels. “This employer did not provide protective respirators or even warn the workers of the risk to their health from removing the material."
The case against AMD Industries, a branding company, dates back to 2002, when a safety audit of the Cicero facility uncovered the presence of asbestos-containing materials on boilers, heating units and connected piping. When the company began an asbestos-removal project in 2010, the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency stepped in and asked the state attorney general’s office to investigate AMD for improper removal, handling and disposal of asbestos-containing material.
Following an inspection in December 2010, OSHA cited AMD for issued 15 “willful” violations, with proposed penalties of $945,000, for the failing to train and outfit the workers with protective equipment and clothing that would ensure they did not carry asbestos fibers outside of the facility.
AMD Industries was also fined also $252,000 for failing to inform workers of the location and quantity of asbestos; to monitor airborne concentrations of the dangerous material; to use high-efficiency particulate air vacuums and wet methods to control dust; and to promptly and properly dispose of contaminated waste.
According to OSHA, a willful violation is defined as “an intentional disregard for the requirements of the law or plain indifference to employee safety and health.”
OSHA also issued eight serious citations, which occur when there is substantial probability that death or serious physical harm could result from a hazard the employer knew or should have known about. Those citations, which resulted in fines of $50,400, were failing to implement a respirator protection program, conducting asbestos work in unregulated areas; and failing to provide hygiene facilities for workers removing the dangerous material.