“These significant penalties reflect the fact that this employer, an asbestos contractor with extensive knowledge of the OSHA standards that govern asbestos removal and handling, chose not to follow these standards and put its workers, including young, inexperienced college students, in harm’s way,” said Deputy Assistant Secretary for OSHA Jordan Barab.
OSHA found that several Cambria Contracting workers, who were cleaning up debris at the former AM&A department store warehouse on Washington Avenue, had not been trained in asbestos hazards and how to protect themselves. The workers also lacked proper respirators and protective clothing, and had not been informed of the presence of asbestos at the site. In addition, the employer failed to determine the asbestos exposure level and to establish a regulated work area for asbestos removal and handling. It also did not use vacuums with HEPA filters to collect debris but used methods to move debris with asbestos-containing material that typically can cause asbestos to be released into the air.
OSHA defines a willful violation as one committed with plain indifference to or intentional disregard for worker safety and health.
“This employer knew that training and other safeguards, which are well-known in the industry, were required, yet chose not to provide them,” said Robert Kulick, OSHA’s New York regional administrator. “That is unacceptable and needlessly placed the health of these workers at risk.”
“Asbestos is well recognized as a health hazard since inhalation of asbestos fibers may lead to lung cancer and other diseases,” said Arthur Dube, OSHA’s Buffalo area director. “As exposures frequently occur during renovation and demolition work, we strongly urge contractors to ensure that their workers are adequately trained and protected against asbestos hazards.”
Detailed information on asbestos is available on OSHA's Web site at: http://www.osha.gov/SLTC/asbestos/index.html and http://www.osha.gov/SLTC/asbestos/construction.html.