Contractor Fined for Exposing Workers to Asbestos

The Washington Department of Labor and Industries (L&I) says that not only did Phalon Abatement Services Inc. expose workers to health hazards from asbestos, but a supervisor for the company lied to on-site inspectors about it.

L&I fined the Spokane asbestos removal contractor $144,000 for seven willful violations of the rules that protect workers from asbestos exposure. The violations occurred in January at a work site in Moses Lake, where the employees were removing asbestos construction materials from a building.

The violations were related to air monitoring and air quality; safe handling and disposal of asbestos products and debris; use of personal protective equipment; and establishment of a decontamination area for employees.

The employer was cited for willful violations because at the time of the inspection, the supervisor claimed no asbestos work was being done while another employee remained out of sight in a boiler room. According to the supervisor, the boiler room was locked and she did not have a key. The inspectors left the worksite and returned minutes later to find the two employees removing asbestos insulation from the boiler room.

Willful violations are issued when there is a substantial probability that death or serious physical harm could result from an existing condition and the department finds the employer knowingly or intentionally violated the rules or knew that a violation was occurring and was plainly indifferent to correcting it.

Asbestos is a widely used mineral-based material that is resistant to fire and corrosives and is linked to significant health hazards such lung diseases and several forms of cancer.

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