They Never Learn

There has been plenty of news here and around the country this past year about contractors attempting to cut costs by cutting corners on asbestos removal who are then hit with stiff fines amounting to several times what it would have cost to do the job safely and legally in the first place.
Earlier this month, two Albuquerque, New Mexico, contracting firms joined the list. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), an agency within the U.S. Department of Labor, cited and assessed fines totaling nearly $160,000 against general contractor Maloy Construction, Inc. and plumbing contractor Deerfield Corporation in connection with asbestos exposure at a hospital building site in the small town of Mescalero, about 200 miles southeast of Albuquerque.

OSHA Area Director Rich Tapio told the local media that the “OSHA inspection revealed that the two companies failed to take appropriate action to protect their employees.”

An inspection by personnel from OSHA’s El Paso, Texas, office last summer revealed 17 separate violations consisting of employee asbestos exposure. The inspection was triggered by complaints that employees were handling asbestos containing materials without the proper type of protective equipment.

The two companies allegedly failed to:

  • regulate the asbestos area
  • assess asbestos exposure risks
  • provide proper equipment
  • launder contaminated clothing
  • provide training in asbestos removal procedures

Maloy and Deerfield had until 18 December to respond to the allegation or appeal the citations and penalties.

Rich Tapio expressed hope that the case would serve as an example and warning to other contractors tempted to cut costs by risking their employees’ health. “Employers must remain committed to keeping the workplace safe and healthful at all times,” he said.

Nonetheless, over the past year, OSHA has discovered nearly 89,000 violations over the course of 39,000 inspections. Maloy Construction was liable for five of those violations; Deerfield Corp, twelve. The fines assessed were $75,600 and $81,900 respectively.