Recent reports of workers and employers throughout the nation violating federal and state air pollutant standards are increasingly disconcerting. Given the immensity of medical and scientific research and the minute detail of its regulations, one would assume companies would take the presence of any asbestos on-site very seriously. Asbestos dust is more than simply dust; it is comprised of six types of sharp, lethal fibers, which, if inhaled, pose the risk of being lodged into the lungs permanently or at least long enough to cause serious and debilitating damages.
Asbestos exposure attorneys urge anyone involved in or associated with the construction industry to report any instances of asbestos misuse or law breaking. Renovations and demolitions occur every day, and it is nearly impossible for federal and state agencies to regulate each site specifically for the entire duration of the work. The U.S. Department of Labor performs routine inspections on major projects throughout the country. If a work site is found to have asbestos-related violations, the fines are hefty, and companies are required to pay all costs of the cleanup. Companies also must pay any future medical claims that arise from occupational exposure to asbestos, which may result in lung cancer, asbestosis, and mesothelioma.
The Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) recently cited seven construction companies – three Miami-based contractors and four San Antonio-based subcontractors – with 45 serious and one other-than-serious violation for exposing workers to asbestos hazards at a San Antonio construction work site. Proposed penalties total $148,000.
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“Asbestos is an extremely hazardous material that can potentially cause lifelong, irreversible health conditions,” said John Hermanson, OSHA’s regional administrator in Dallas. “It is imperative that OSHA’s safety and health standards be followed to avoid accidents, injuries and illnesses.”
In response to a referral by the Texas Department of State Health Services, OSHA’s San Antonio Area Office initiated a safety and health inspection in March at the Reserves at Pecan Valley apartment complex located on East Southcross Boulevard. Inspectors found that workers were remodeling apartments without the use of proper clothing and respiratory equipment that would protect them from exposure to asbestos.
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Specifically, the violations include failing to abate asbestos hazards and ensure that employees work in regulated areas, perform air monitoring for asbestos exposure, use the required engineering controls to prevent exposure, require the use of proper respiratory and personal protective equipment, train workers on the hazards of working with asbestos, and ensure that an asbestos assessment is performed by a qualified person. A serious violation occurs when there is a substantial probability that death or serious physical harm could result from a hazard about which the employer knew or should have known.
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The Miami-based contractors were cited for a total of 14 violations: Newport Property Ventures LLC was issued citations carrying $36,100 in fines for eight serious and one other than serious violation; Newport Property Construction LLC was fined $12,600 for two serious violations and Jamesboys Inc. was issued citations carrying $18,900 in fines for three serious violations.
The San Antonio subcontractors were cited for a total of 32 violations: Alex Vega doing business as Alco Painting & Remodeling was issued citations carrying $28,200 in fines for 11 serious violations; Luis Lozada was issued citations with $20,400 in fines for eight serious violations; Frank Gonzalez was issued citations with $9,600 in fines for four serious violations; and Clemente Covarrubias, doing business as Knock It Out, was issued citations with $22,200 in fines for nine serious violations.
These violations pose a serious risk to employee and public health. Asbestos that becomes airborne during construction activities may potentially travel off-site, into nearby public and residential spaces, to be inhaled by innocent bystanders. This type of exposure is dangerous, and symptoms may not manifest for decades after initial contact. If you were exposed to asbestos, and developed a related disease, you have important legal rights. Contact one of our skilled asbestos exposure attorneys immediately for a free consultation.