After being tipped off by a concerned employee, OSHA inspectors visited a construction site in New Haven, Connecticut and found that workers converting a former automotive warehouse were indeed being exposed to asbestos.
According to an article in the New Haven Independent, the personnel from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) visited the construction site last November and recently filed a list of 17 violations against Rakaj Companies for improper asbestos management.
The violations were dubbed “serious” in accordance with OSHA guidelines, though Aleks Rakaj contested the violations. The matter has now reached the courts.
The list of violations against the company include:
* Failing to provide lunch areas at the work site with safe concentrations of asbestos in the air.
* Failing to regularly monitor the concentration of asbestos in the air.
* Failing to use vacuum cleaners equipped with HEPA filters to collect all dust that may contain asbestos material.
* Failing to wet the site to decrease employee exposure to asbestos during cleanup, removal, handling and cutting.
* Failing to provide employees with respirators to breathe in a contaminated area.
* Failing to provide employees with shower areas to decontaminate themselves after exposure to asbestos.
The concerns about the site and the work happening there began with a call to the New Haven health department. The individual reported suspicious activity going on inside the 43,000-square-foot warehouse in question.
When health department officials arrived unannounced at the facility, entering through the front door, the crew working on the project quickly left via the back door, says Paul Kowalski, the director of the New Haven environmental health program.
That’s when they called in the feds, he adds.
This scenario is all too familiar and often involves unsuspecting workers – often undocumented individuals – who are hired with no regard for their health. Most are eager for employment and disregard the dangerous working conditions but others become aware of the dangers and report their findings, usually anonymously.
Once the government steps in, the problems must be addressed, but often it’s too late for those who have already been exposed to toxic asbestos dust.
These cases are proof that workplace asbestos exposure is not a problem of the past. Just because asbestos use was essentially halted (though never banned) in the late 1970s, it doesn’t mean the material isn’t still present in buildings of all kinds.
As a matter of fact, exposure during some sort of construction project is currently the number one reason that an individual develops mesothelioma, an aggressive asbestos-caused cancer.
Sadly, in most incidences, asbestos exposure during construction projects could have been avoided if those in charge would have taken the proper steps to protect their workers.
This includes not allowing untrained workers to handle asbestos and, at the very least, providing workers with masks and other gear that would have prevented them from inhaling tiny, sharp asbestos fibers.
Anyone who finds themselves in a situation similar to that which is described here should report their concerns to their local EPA or health department and should continue to be alert for any signs of asbestos disease.