Cheektowaga, NY—After learning that they engaged in dangerous practices concerning the evaluation of asbestos contamination and the removal of asbestos-containing materials, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has fined an upstate New York company $50,000.
Superior General Contracting, of Buffalo suburb Cheektowaga, has been cited for 10 serious workplace health violations by OSHA. The violations allegedly occurred on a job site where asbestos-containing pipe insulation was being removed as part of a remodeling project. Federal law requires that companies performing demolition or remodeling follow certain procedures regarding asbestos, including determining exposure levels, wetting any removed asbestos debris, properly disposing of asbestos materials, and providing respirators and protective clothing for workers on the site. Additionally, workers must be adequately trained in working with asbestos, and must be properly supervised. OSHA claims that Superior General Contracting did not fulfill any of these requirements.
Asbestos, a known carcinogen, was widely used in various construction and industrial applications, as well as in an array of consumer products, throughout the twentieth century. When the materials containing asbestos are disturbed or broken, a fine yet toxic particulate can be released into the air, when it is then inhaled. This can lead to the development of several devastating respiratory diseases, including the particularly aggressive cancer called mesothelioma. Targeting the lungs’ outer lining, mesothelioma can spread throughout the body before it becomes symptomatic, which means that it is often at end stages before it is diagnosed. There is currently no cure for mesothelioma, and most patients have a rather short life expectancy—18 months on average—after they find out they have the disease. There are treatments that can be used to alleviate pain or reduce symptoms, but often the side effects of these treatments can outweigh their benefits, and so many patients opt not to undergo them. Superior General Contracting was given 15 days from the receipt of the penalties and violations to comply with payment of the fine, contest the findings, or request a conference with the area director of OSHA.