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Companies Failed to Protect Workers From Asbestos

OSHA cited two contractors for allegedly failing to protect\r\nemployees working on the renovation of a York, Maine, toll plaza\r\nservice building from asbestos hazards.

OSHA cited two contractors for allegedly failing to protect employees working on the renovation of a York, Maine, toll plaza service building from asbestos hazards.

Cited were CPM Constructors, the Freeport, Maine-based general contractor for the renovation of a service building at the York Toll Plaza, and HNTB, with an office in Westbrook, Maine, the project''s construction manager.

CPM faces a total of $114,000 in fines for three alleged Willful and 10 alleged Serious violations, while $75,600 in fines are proposed against HNTB for 12 alleged Serious violations.

According to C. William Freeman III, OSHA area director for Maine, the alleged violations were discovered during an inspection initiated March 20, 2000, in response to complaints from workers and a subcontractor about possible employee exposure to asbestos hazards.

"The inspection found numerous significant violations of OSHA''s asbestos construction standard that posed hazards not only to CPM and HNTB employees but also to employees of subcontractors, the Maine Turnpike Authority and other outside contractors," said Freeman.

HNTB failed to conduct pre-job monitoring to identify likely sources of asbestos, and once asbestos-containing material was discovered, did not promptly notify Turnpike and subcontractor employees of the asbestos hazard, according to OSHA.

CPM failed to provide proper containment areas, protective equipment and decontamination facilities and failed to follow proper safety procedures, including having its own employees and subcontractor employees cut, remove and dispose of asbestos containing materials without proper safeguards, Freeman said.

"Specifically," said Freeman. "CPM or subcontractor employees were exposed to asbestos-containing materials on four occasions: while scraping up and drilling holes in floor tile with asbestos-containing adhesive, while cutting and removing an asbestos countertop, and while removing asbestos-containing insulation from a water tank. These jobs were performed without respirators, protective clothing, a sealed-off work area, a decontamination room, employee training in asbestos removal procedure and without having a competent person to supervise the work."

Asbestos is a suspected carcinogen which, if ingested or inhaled, can become embedded in the tissue of the respiratory and digestive systems.

Exposure can lead to such fatal or disabling diseases such as asbestosis, lung cancer, mesothelioma and gastrointestinal cancer.

In the construction industry, asbestos is found in such installed products as floor tiles, insulation, ceiling tiles, and cement pipes, particularly in structures built before 1981.

Each company has 15 working days from receipt of its citations and proposed penalties to either elect to comply with them, request an informal conference, or contest them.

by Virginia Sutcliffe

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