In this day and age in which the federal government is determined to sell and outsource everything to private corporate interests–including foreign interests –those corporations who gleefully move in to gobble up their piece of the U.S.A. had better be careful, or they might wind up with a bad case of indigestion. It happened to Balfour-Beatty Construction, LLC, a U.K. based firm that was hired for a project on a U.S. military base at White Sands, New Mexico. Without going into the question of whether it was necessary to hire an overseas company to do something that a local firm might have done just as well, the job involved the construction of housing units at the White Sands Missile Range. Last summer, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) received reports from the New Mexico Environment Department that pipe made from transite–a type of concrete impregnated with asbestos–was being removed from the construction site by untrained, unauthorized employees who had neither certification nor protective gear, and who had taken no steps whatsoever to insure that asbestos fibers were not released into the air.
The employees were actually those of a subcontractor hired by Balfour-Beatty. The subcontractor in this case was C.F. Jordan LP of El Paso, Texas, which specializes in utility construction. C.F. Jordan was cited by OSHA, and faces $145,000 in fines for a total of seven violations of asbestos regulations, two of which are considered to be willful. Balfour-Beatty has also been cited; as the primary contractor on the job, they are held responsible for the actions and inactions of any subcontractors they hire. In this case, the British firm failed to ascertain that C.F. Jordan personnel were in fact trained and equipped to deal with asbestos. In addition, there was failure to conduct a thorough assessment of the asbestos problem, and neither did Balfour-Beatty provide competent supervision of the asbestos removal. Balfour-Beatty LLC may wind up being assessed fines of nearly $180,000–several times what it would have cost to have the job done properly.