Sears Roebuck & Co. to Pay Fine for Improper Asbestos Removal

Sears will pay a civil fine of $50,000 to a family for alleged improper asbestos removal from the family’s home. The family filed suit against Sears, asking for an estimate to remove their old boiler which was housed in asbestos-containing insulation. The couple, Blane and Rachel Provost, also wanted a new boiler installed. When a price was agreed upon by the Provosts and the Sears representative, work began on the removal of the old boiler and its insulation. To perform the work, Sears hired subcontractors, but neither the plumber nor the subcontractor who was to remove the boiler were certified or trained in how to work with asbestos. This shortcoming in the professional training of the subcontractors put the Provosts at risk for being exposed to asbestos dust and particles. Inhalation of such fibers has been linked to the development of several lung diseases such as mesothelioma and asbestosis .

Symptoms of these, however, do not manifest themselves until 10 to 20 years, or even more, after exposure. It will be many years before the Provosts know if they were affected by the asbestos as it was being removed. During the removal of the old boiler and its insulation, the subcontractors did not fill out an Asbestos Notification Form with the Department of Environmental Protection. They neglected to inform the department of when and how the boiler would be removed and where it would be disposed. The contractors allegedly left the boiler and its surrounding insulation open in the basement with debris scattered across the floor. The debris was picked up by the contractors’ bare hands and thrown away in plain trash sacks. This resulted in a “hazy asbestos dust in the air”. Such unsafe asbestos removal practices were in direct violation of the Massachusetts Clean Air Act and the Consumer Protection Act. In addition to the fine, Sears must also require all of its salespeople and managers to take training courses to inform them of the dangers of asbestos. The company must also ensure proper surveillance of job sites where asbestos is being removed.