Missouri Companies Fined
In May, OSHA cited two Kansas City companies for exposing workers to asbestos while restoring a Kansas State University library.
Following the investigation, OSHA cited one of the companies with 23 serious health violations. The employer failed to protect employees from asbestos exposure, and also failed to provide respiratory protection or personal protective clothing.
Furthermore, the OSHA inspector issued citations for failing to develop a written hazard communication program, properly dispose of materials containing asbestos, and conduct required medical surveillance testing.
The other company received three serious citations after OSHA determined that it did not comply with asbestos abatement standards. The company also failed to inform the building owner and employees of the location of the quantity of asbestos-containing material.
In all, one company faces proposed penalties of $39,780, while the subcontractor faces fines of up to $193,569.
What is Asbestos?
A naturally occurring mineral fiber, asbestos was originally used in building and vehicle materials due to its unique strength and ability to resist heat.
Asbestos abatement became heavily regulated after medical professionals discovered various health concerns related directly to the fiber.
Three standards exist to protect workers against asbestos … for general industry, construction, and shipyards.
Asbestos fibers, invisible to the eye, can be released into the air when working with asbestos-containing materials.
Upon inhalation, these fibers cause scarring to lung tissue and to the digestive tract. As a known carcinogen, in many cases, it leads to lung and other cancers.
Symptoms take years to develop following exposure.
“Asbestos is a well-known health hazard that can cause lung cancer, mesothelioma, and other life-threatening illnesses,” said OSHA Wichita Area Director Ryan Hodge.
“Employers working in the restoration industry are required to remediate asbestos hazards to ensure workers are adequately protected.”
Here’s What to Know About Asbestos Standards
Permissible Exposure Limit (PEL): No one must be exposed above limits of 0.1 fiber per cubic centimeter of air as an eight-hour time-weighted average, with an excursion limit of 1.0 asbestos fibers per cubic centimeter over a 30-minute period.
Engineering Controls: If the asbestos exposure has the potential to be above the PEL or EL, employers must implement engineering controls to reduce exposure.
All three standards list control methods depending on work classification. If these controls can’t be implemented, then employers must reduce the exposure to the lowest level possible and supplement with proper respiratory protection.
Hazard Communication: Warning signs with specified language must be used in areas that have exposures at or above the PEL. Proper PPE should be provided and used in these areas.
Provide Separate Areas: Workers must be provided with separate areas for decontamination and lunch. There should also be no smoking, eating, or drinking in areas with asbestos exposure.
Training: Specific training requirements depend on workplace classification and exposure. Before the work begins, training must be provided to all workers who may be exposed at or above the PEL, and every year after.
Records: Worker medical surveillance records must be kept for the duration of their employment plus 30 years.
General exposure monitoring for asbestos must be recorded and kept for at least 30 years. Employers are also required to keep training records for 1 year beyond the end of employment.
Medical surveillance: These requirements differ by industry, but employers must provide medical surveillance testing for workers who experience exposure at or above the PEL. OSHA also requires medical examinations for these workers.
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Learn more about the asbestos physical exam here.