Temporary Citizens Exposed to Asbestos in Workplace

An Illinois construction company was recently hit with a million-dollar fine for willfully exposing employees to asbestos, many of whom were in the United States on temporary H-2B visas. Kehrer Brothers Construction will pay roughly $1.8 million for exposing at least eight employees to asbestos. Our team of asbestos exposure lawyers reports on this investigation below.

Inspectors for the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) found that Joseph Kehrer (the company’s manager) and other supervisors had instructed workers to remove material containing asbestos during the renovation of a former school. Kehrer threatened to fire workers if they reported the exposure to OSHA investigators.

Kehrer failed to warn many employees about the potential and dangers of asbestos exposure on-the-job, as many workers spoke only Spanish. Kehrer did not take any precautions to minimize their exposure and did not provide them with any protective equipment, as is required by law.

As a result of the investigation, OSHA cited Kehrer for 31 violations, 16 of which were particularly severe. One of Kehrer’s affiliates, D-7 Roofing, was also cited for failing to train workers on how to protect themselves from asbestos and for not even warning workers that asbestos may be present. D-7 Roofting was cited for $147,000.

The U.S. Department of Labor stated that Kehrer Brothers Construction has an extensive history with OSHA. The company has been investigated 11 times since 2007. In 2011, the company was hit with a class action lawsuit, filed on behalf of roofing workers who claimed they were not paid for their time traveling to and from job sites and cleaning up work areas. That lawsuit ended in 2013 with a settlement of $450,000 to the employees.

$9.4 Million to Construction Worker with Mesothelioma

A case in Florida illustrates exactly how dangerous asbestos exposure in the workplace can be. Roy Taylor worked as a painting supervisor for a construction project in Saudi Arabia from 1977 to 1978. During his time there, painters would sand down walls to ensure a smooth surface before painting, covering everyone working in the area with white dust. Taylor and his coworkers used joint compounds made by Georgia-Pacific for this job.

Several decades later, Taylor was diagnosed with terminal mesothelioma, which is a rare form cancer caused only by exposure to asbestos. Taylor and his wife consequently filed suit against Georgia-Pacific for negligently selling a defective product. During his trial, Taylor’s doctor testified that he had less than one year to live, as efforts to remove the mesothelioma tumors failed.

The Florida jury found Georgia-Pacific 55% to blame for his mesothelioma, and his employer at the time 30% to blame. The remaining 15% of blame was assigned to Taylor himself. The jury ultimately awarded $13 million to Taylor and $4 million to his wife. Subtracting 15% (as that was the amount of blame assigned to him), the couple ended up with $9.4 million in damages.

Construction is one of the most high-risk industries for asbestos exposure. Asbestos is present in nearly all buildings constructed before the 1980s in installed products like sprayed-on fireproofing, pipe insulation, floor tiles, cement pipes and sheets, roofing felts, shingles, ceiling tiles, drywall, joint compounds, and acoustical products. Most exposure occurs during the removal of asbestos, such as during renovations and maintenance.

The symptoms for asbestos-related diseases (lung cancer, mesothelioma, asbestosis, etc) generally do not appear until 20+ years after exposure. Exposure occurs when asbestos fibers are inhaled into the body and embed in the tissue of the respiratory or digestive system. OSHA has very clear guidelines on how asbestos-containing materials should be handled in the workplace. The agency regulates nearly every aspect of handling asbestos and asbestos-containing materials on construction sites. These standards do not, however, apply to asbestos-containing asphalt roof coatings, cements, and mastics.

Our team of asbestos exposure attorneys has over 30 years of success in mesothelioma and lung cancer cases. If you or someone you love has been diagnosed with an asbestos-related illness, contact our firm immediately for a free legal consultation. We accept clients nationwide, and we never charge any attorneys’ fees unless we win you a settlement or verdict.

We also offer a free mesothelioma book, 100 Questions & Answers on Mesothelioma, without any obligation or fees. Visit our website for more information.

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