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Regulators cite company for failing to protect workers from asbestos


An Illinois company faces fines of $127,600 after a safety inspection found that workers removing insulation at a site in Franklin Park were exposed to asbestos.

 

The U.S. Occupational Safety & Health Administration has accused A.M. Castle & Co., a distributor of specialty metal and plastic products, of 22 "serious health violations," including failing to provide protective clothing or a decontamination area for workers.

 

A serious violation occurs when there is “substantial probability that death or serious physical harm could result from a hazard about which the employer knew or should have known,” according to OSHA. A.M. Castle was also cited for six record-keeping violations and one “other-than-serious” asbestos violation.

 

Other serious violations include failing to determine the presence, location and amount of asbestos-containing material; failing to affix warning notices on asbestos-containing piping; failing to monitor employees and the work area for airborne asbestos; and failing to use a high-efficiency particulate air – or HEPA – vacuum to collect debris and dust during asbestos removal.

 

The inspection, prompted by a complaint, also found that A.M. Castle failed to provide asbestos awareness training for employees performing the work.

 

An arm of the Department of Labor, OSHA is responsible for health and safety regulations in the construction, manufacturing and service industries. The agency estimates that 1.3 million employees in construction and general industry face significant asbestos exposure on the job. Heaviest exposures occur during the removal of asbestos during renovation or demolition.

 

Asbestos workers are at higher risk of lung cancer and mesothelioma, a cancer of the thin membrane that surrounds the lung and other internal organs. Health experts have determined that even brief exposures to asbestos can cause cancer, asbestosis and other respiratory diseases, which may take decades to appear.

 

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency regulates the general public’s exposure to asbestos in buildings, drinking water and the environment.