Long Island Nassau Coliseum Fined for Asbestos Hazards

New York’s beloved NHL team, the Islanders, are abandoning their long-time home on Long Island due to recent asbestos discoveries. By the end of the 2014-2015 season, the Islanders will be moving to a facility in Brooklyn, just 35 minutes from Long Island via train. The Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum was built in 1972 and seats over 16,000 for Islanders games, though the arena is used additionally for concerts, and boxing and wrestling matches as well. The Coliseum was nicknamed ‘Fort Neverlose’ in the mid-eighties as the Islanders won the Stanley Cup for four consecutive years.

Reports of abundant asbestos contamination within the Colisum coincide with the mineral’s use in the United States during the time the facility was built. Asbestos was used, primarily in building materials, throughout the twentieth century, though production peaked in the 1960s and 70s. In the late 1970s, asbestos was one of the first pollutants banned by the Clean Air Act due to its devastating health effects. Asbestos attorneys warn workers, visitors, and surrounding residents of the Coliseum that asbestos is a known carcinogenic, and leads to development of fatal illnesses.

The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) recently released a press release regarding this issue. In it, OSHA cites SMG Nassau Coliseum LLC (SMG) with 16 alleged serious violations of workplace health and safety standards. The company, which manages the day-to-day operations of the Coliseum, faces a total of $88,000 in proposed fines for asbestos, electrical, chemical and other hazards facing workers at the coliseum.

OSHA’s Long Island Area Office opened an inspection in response to an employee complaint. Investigators found that maintenance workers and electricians were exposed to asbestos or materials potentially containing asbestos while working in various locations – including the coliseum’s ice plant, catwalks and a loading dock – and that SMG did not take adequate steps to address the hazards. These conditions occurred in areas not accessible to the general public.

Specifically, SMG did not identify the presence, location and quantity of materials containing or potentially containing asbestos, use engineering controls and work practices to reduce exposure levels, ensure that all asbestos work was conducted in regulated areas, ensure proper respirator use, post warning signs and provide asbestos awareness training for workers.

In addition, OSHA found inadequately lighted exit routes, inoperable emergency lighting, lights not guarded against damage, defective forklifts, unsecured liquefied petroleum gas containers, electrical circuits not locked out and unguarded open-sided floors. The company also failed to provide workers with bloodborne pathogen and chemical hazard communication training. Finally, the company failed to develop procedures and provide hardware to lock out power sources to prevent the unintended activation of machinery. 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.

Asbestos is the name given to a group of naturally occurring minerals that are resistant to heat and corrosion. Asbestos has been used as insulation for pipes, floor tiles and building materials, and in vehicle brakes and clutches. Breathing asbestos fibers can cause a buildup of scar-like tissue in the lungs called asbestosis, which can result in a loss of lung function that often progresses to disability or death. Asbestos also causes lung cancer and other diseases such as mesothelioma of the pleura, which is a fatal malignant tumor of the membrane that lines the cavity of the lung or stomach. Detailed information on asbestos hazards and safeguards, including an asbestos self-inspection checklist, is available online at http://www.osha.gov/SLTC/asbestos/index.html.

SMG has 15 business days from receipt of its citations and proposed penalties to comply, meet with OSHA’s area director or contest the findings before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.

To ask questions, obtain compliance assistance, file a complaint, or report workplace hospitalizations, fatalities or situations posing imminent danger to workers, the public should call OSHA’s toll-free hotline at 800-321-OSHA (6742) or the agency’s Long Island office in Westbury at 516-334-3344.

If you or a loved one were exposed to asbestos due to workplace negligence and developed a related illness, contact a mesothelioma attorney at Pintas & Mullins Law Firm immediately. We offer free legal consultations to all of our potential clients.

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