OSHA has issued penalties of $1,247,400 to AMD Industries Inc. in Cicero after five unprotected and untrained workers allegedly were required to conduct asbestos removal exposing them to this cancer-causing material.

The company was issued 19 willful and eight serious health citations following an OSHA inspection at its facilities in December 2010, in response to a referral from the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency.

"AMD failed in its duty to protect the health and safety of its workers," said Secretary of Labor Hilda L. Solis. "Such disregard will not be tolerated by the Labor Department. No one should risk serious illness or death to earn a paycheck."

OSHA investigators found that AMD Industries had commissioned a safety audit of its Cicero facility in 2002, which uncovered the presence of asbestos-containing materials on boilers, heating units and connected piping. In November 2010, the company began an asbestos removal project using in-house and untrained workers. The Illinois Environmental Protection Agency became aware of the work and asked the Illinois Attorney General's Office to proceed with an enforcement action for the improper removal, handling and disposal of asbestos-containing material. An agreed order was entered into by the company to implement a program to remediate the asbestos contamination. Workers allegedly were exposed to materials containing 20-50 percent asbestos.

"Asbestos exposure can be deadly," said Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health Dr. David Michaels. "AMD Industries knew it was assigning workers to asbestos removal work and failed to take the most basic safety precautions. This employer did not provide protective respirators or even warn the workers of the risk to their health from removing the material."

OSHA issued 15 willful citations, with proposed penalties of $945,000, for the employer's failures to provide the employees engaged in the hazardous work with the proper training, and protective clothing and equipment. Proper protective clothing is required to make sure employees do not carry asbestos fibers outside of the facility and into their cars and homes.

Additionally, AMD Industries was fined $252,000 for four willful violations for the following alleged failures: to identify or inform workers of the location and quantity of asbestos; to monitor airborne concentrations of asbestos; to use high-efficiency particulate air vacuums and wet methods to control the dust; and to promptly and properly dispose of asbestos-contaminated waste.

OSHA also issued eight serious citations, with proposed fines of $50,400, for failing to implement a respirator protection program; failing to use engineering controls and work practices for Class I asbestos work; not conducting asbestos work in regulated areas; and failing to provide hygiene facilities for workers removing the dangerous material.

This investigation falls under the requirements of OSHA's Severe Violators Enforcement Program. Initiated in the spring of 2010, the program focuses on recalcitrant employers that endanger workers by committing willful, repeat or failure-to-abate violations.