Companies Fined After Forcing Employees to Remove Asbestos

The Associated Press reports that the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration recently fined AMD Industries “more than $1.2 million for requiring its workers to remove asbestos without proper training or protection.” Asbestos is a dangerous mineral found in older construction because of its heat, chemical and electrical-resistant properties. Unfortunately, as it ages its fibers detach, entering the air where they can be inhaled and lead to several diseases, including mesothelioma cancer. OSHA said Wednesday that the company “failed to protect workers when it exposed five of them to the material,” the AP reports. The news source explains that according to OSHA, these employees did not receive respirators to protect them from inhaling these fibers, nor did they receive warning concerning the health risks. Sufferers of asbestos-related diseases, particularly mesothelioma, typically face a poor prognosis after the development of one of these conditions. The AP reports that “OSHA says a 2002 safety audit commissioned by AMD for its Cicero facility uncovered the presence of asbestos,” though the company chose not to hire professionals to remove the materials. The agency explains that in 2010, AMD Industries “began using its own untrained workers to remove the material until regulators found out,” the news source reports. In a separate story, the AP reports that another company has been fined $132 thousand by the state of Indiana “for federal violations involving the removal and disposal of asbestos” at the former Jefferson Proving Grounds. According to that story, “the Indiana Department of Labor found that Ford Lumber & Building Supply Inc. committed 16 violations when its workers removed asbestos insulation from hot water pipes from the site’s buildings.” The news story explains that this company also failed to provide respirators to protect their workers from asbestos inhalation. Instead, the AP explains that this company “allowed them to clean up using brooms and dust pans.” Stephanie McFarland, Indiana Labor Department spokeswoman, explained the company “has until May 30 to pay the fine or challenge it,” the news source explains. On Tuesday, a Ford Lumber employee said the company would not comment on the proceedings. Both reports illustrate the danger asbestos continues to pose today in the workplace, highlighting the serious attention this chemical deserves. Although companies may be tempted to avoid expensive professional asbestos abatement performed by licensed contractors, strict OSHA standards prohibit untrained professionals from removing such materials. Improperly removed asbestos fibers can even increase exposure risks, as untrained workers may actually uncover previously-contained pockets of the material, putting themselves and their coworkers in greater danger. References: The Associated Press. (May 25, 2011) “Indiana Fines Company $132K For Asbestos Violations.” Retrieved on May 26, 2011 from WKLY. The Associated Press. (May 26, 2011) “OSHA fines Cicero company $1.2M over improper asbestos removal.” Retrieved on May 26, 2011 from the Chicago Sun-Times. Previous: NY Contractor Sentenced Next: Photodynamic Therapy Combined with Radical Pleurectomy