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Construction contractor fined $136,000 for asbestos hazards at Boston hospital (3/2)

March 2, 2010
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OSHA has proposed $136,000 in fines against William A. Berry & Son Inc., a Danvers, Mass., construction contractor, for 19 alleged violations of workplace health and safety standards while removing asbestos-containing material at Beth Israel Hospital in Boston, Mass., last September, an OSHA press release states.

"Asbestos is well recognized as a health hazard since inhalation of asbestos fibers may lead to lung cancer and other diseases," said Brenda Gordon, OSHA's area director for Boston and southeastern Massachusetts. "OSHA standards are designed to minimize the risk of exposure and its potential impact on workers' health, but they are effective only so long as employers adhere to them."

OSHA's inspection found that Berry employees were removing laboratory ventilation hoods with asbestos-containing panels without proper respiratory protection and required safeguards to minimize exposure. Specifically, the contractor failed to conduct an initial asbestos exposure assessment and monitor the worksite daily for asbestos exposure, establish regulated work areas, provide protective clothing and a decontamination area, use HEPA vacuums to collect debris and clean workers' clothing, label containers of asbestos-containing materials, train employees in asbestos work, and ensure that the site was inspected and the work overseen by a competent person. Several respirator-related deficiencies also were identified.

As a result, OSHA has issued William A. Berry & Son one willful citation, with a $55,000 fine, for not establishing a regulated work area and 17 serious citations, with $80,000 in fines, for the remaining items. The employer also has been issued one other-than-serious citation, with a $1,000 fine, for not providing OSHA injury and illness logs in a timely manner.

Detailed information on asbestos hazards and safeguards is available at http://www.osha.gov/SLTC/asbestos/index.html and http://www.osha.gov/SLTC/asbestos/construction.html.

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