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New York firm fined $273,000 for failing to protect temps from asbestos exposures (3/2)

March 2, 2009
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OSHA has cited Blackstone Business Enterprises Inc. of Jamestown, N.Y., for 18 alleged willful and serious violations of OSHA standards for failing to protect contract employees against asbestos hazards, according to an agency statement.

The sheet metal and structural steel fabricator faces $273,000 in proposed fines for failing to provide required safeguards for temporary employees who were hired to remove asbestos-containing insulation from steam pipes at the company's Blackstone Avenue plant.

"The sizable fines proposed here reflect the fact that this company knew several of these critical safeguards were necessary yet chose not to provide them," said Arthur Dube, OSHA's area director in Buffalo, in a statement. "Inhalation of asbestos fibers by workers may lead to lung disease and other disorders. That is why it is essential that effective protective measures be in place and in use whenever necessary. One means of identifying and preventing hazards such as these is to develop and maintain an effective safety and health management system."

Blackstone did not perform air monitoring to determine the level of asbestos exposure nor did it provide workers with respirators, protective clothing and asbestos training, according to OSHA. These conditions resulted in four willful citations, carrying $224,000 in proposed fines. OSHA defines a willful violation as one committed with plain indifference to or intentional disregard for employee safety and health.

The company also has been issued 14 serious citations, with $49,000 in fines, for failing to determine the presence, location and quantity of asbestos-containing material; establish a regulated work area; properly clean and dispose of asbestos-containing material and contaminated clothing; inform employees and tenants of the asbestos removal; label asbestos-containing insulation and trash bags; and have the work overseen by a competent person. OSHA issues serious citations when death or serious physical harm is likely to result from hazards about which the employer knew or should have known.

The company has 15 business days from receipt of the citations to comply, request an informal conference with OSHA's area director in Buffalo or contest the citations and penalties before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.

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