When working on private and commercial properties it is important that contractors know the full extent as to the presence of asbestos in the property. Before conducting any renovation or demolition work they must be prepared to manage the asbestos properly and safely. Unfortunately, three companies conducting renovation in a residential apartment complex in Texas were charged by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration for willfully exposing workers to asbestos after inspection revealed violation of the asbestos protection laws.
According to a Nov. 19 press release from Region 6 OSHA, three Austin, Texas-based employers, all owned by the same individual, were fined a total of $112,000 for willful violations of asbestos removal laws and for putting workers’ health in jeopardy. The violations were found during a May 29 inspection of the San Antonio site.
“This commercial building renovator is responsible for protecting workers from asbestos hazards and failed to do so, despite previous citations for asbestos exposure,” said Alejandro Porter, OSHA’s area director in the San Antonio Office.
Expert Insight“There is simply no excuse for continuing to expose workers to this danger. Exposure to asbestos can lead to lung disease and cancer years after initial exposure.”
The citations were as follows:
- One Eighty Construction, Inc. was fined $35,000 – during “removal of flooring material and floor mastic containing 30% Chrysotile asbestos” for not ensuring work followed asbestos removal practices.
- FBZ Broadway, LP was fined $14,000- failure to determine the “presence, location and quantity of asbestos containing materials” prior to the start of the removal of the vinyl flooring.
- Roscoe Properties, Inc. was fined $63,000 – failure to determine the “presence, location and quantity of asbestos containing materials” prior to the start of the removal of the vinyl flooring. The company had previously been cited.
Asbestos is a naturally occurring mineral, with very strong, heat resistant properties, making it appealing for use in many construction products. Although asbestos has not been used in construction products in the U.S. since the 1980s, asbestos can be found in older buildings in insulation, vinyl and linoleum flooring, and drop-in ceiling tiles, as well as in many other products. Asbestos-containing materials are also found in exterior building materials, such as on shingles and roofing products.
Asbestos is a known carcinogen and is proven to cause mesothelioma, a serious cancer caused by breathing in the asbestos fibers that then become lodged in the thin membrane that lines and encases the lungs. Often called “asbestos cancer,” mesothelioma is highly aggressive and is resistant to many standard cancer treatments.
Because of the dangers posed from handling asbestos, there are strict local, state and federal guidelines for managing and removing asbestos. Violation of these laws come with stiff penalties.
Close to 3,000 Americans each year are diagnosed with mesothelioma. Anyone exposed to asbestos faces a life-long risk of developing mesothelioma. The disease can develop decades after exposure.