The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) recently fined five Texas companies for workplace safety violations in relation to their work on a San Antonio apartment construction project. The fines, totaling nearly $200,000, were levied after the company’s collective negligence led to workers being exposed to unsafe levels of asbestos. Construction workers on the site were not warned about the presence of asbestos, and therefore were not able to take proper precautions when removing building materials. This disregard for worker safety is unacceptable.
One of the companies, One Eighty Construction, Inc, was cited for a wilful violation. This type of workplace safety violation brings the most severe penalties from OSHA. A wilful violation occurs when a company:
- Knew about a safety hazard, and did not act; or
- Should have know about a safety hazard, but did not because of their gross indifference.
In this case, OSHA alleges that One Eighty Construction knew about the presence of asbestos on the job site. According to federal workplace safety regulations, when a toxic substance, including asbestos, is discovered on a construction site, an employer must notify all employees within 24 hours of the discovery. The citation alleges that the management of One Eighty Construction declined to notify their employees, or the employees of the other contractors. The allegation is a major concern because asbestos is extremely dangerous and it must be removed in a specific manner. By failing to notify employees, the construction company put them all at risk.
Asbestos Threatens Worker Safety
Many people believe that asbestos exposure is no longer a serious issue. Asbestos has been removed from the vast majority of new products. But, workers in several industries, particularly construction, still face a real health and safety threat from asbestos exposure. Many early to mid 20th century building materials included asbestos. In fact, any building that was constructed prior to 1990 may have asbestos within some of the materials. Increasingly, these older buildings are starting to undergo renovations. That is what was occurring in this case’s construction project. It was during renovation that asbestos was discovered in the floor tiling. If asbestos tainted materials are not removed properly, the substance can get ‘kicked up’ into the air and end up in the lungs of the workers. The danger from asbestos is particularly insidious because the damage can take many years to appear. Texas companies owe their employees better. All Texas workers deserve safe working conditions. If you have been exposed to asbestos on the job, or have suffered any other injury or health issue, an experienced work injury lawyer can help.