Cleaning up a site in preparation for a tour by potential investors has resulted in a $2,359,000 for Olivet Management LLC, a real estate development and management company that owns the former Harlem Valley Psychiatric Center in Dover Plains, N.Y.
An OSHA inspection – conducted in response to a complaint – found that Olivet Management knowingly exposed not only its own employees, but also employees of 13 contractors, to asbestos and lead hazards.
“Olivet knew that asbestos and lead were present at this site, yet the company chose to ignore its responsibility to protect its own workers and contractors,” said U.S. Secretary of Labor Thomas E. Perez. “The intolerable choice this company made put not only workers, but also their families, in danger.”
The renovation and clean-up work, which was directed and overseen by Olivet supervisors, included removing: asbestos- and lead-contaminated debris; asbestos-containing floor tiles and insulation; and lead-containing paint from walls, windows, door frames and other painted surfaces.
Company didn't tell workers, contractors
OSHA determined that Olivet knowingly failed to take basic safety precautions. Despite knowing that asbestos and lead were present, the company neither informed their own employees nor the contractors they were using about the danger.
As a result, Olivet did not:
- train employees in the hazards of asbestos and lead and the need and nature of required safeguards;
- monitor workers’ exposure levels;
- provide appropriate respiratory protection;
- post notices, warning signs and labels to alert workers and contractors to the presence of asbestos and lead.
Workers wore contaminated clothing home to their families
The company also did not provide clean changing and decontamination areas for workers, many of whom wore their contaminated clothing home to households with small children.
From the Olivet Management website:
"Our approach to development is led by a commitment to community relations, creating lasting value, and beautiful design."
As a result of these conditions, Olivet was cited for 45 willful violations, with $2,352,000 in proposed fines. Twenty-four of the willful citations address instance-by-instance exposure of workers to asbestos and lead hazards.
Olivet was also issued one serious citation, with a $7,000 fine, for failing to inform waste haulers of the presence of asbestos and asbestos-containing materials, meaning asbestos from the site may have been disposed of improperly at an unknown location.
EPA orders a work stoppage
In January of this year, the EPA ordered Olivet to stop all work that could disturb asbestos at the facility. EPA’s investigation is ongoing.
The citations can be viewed at http://www.osha.gov/ooc/citations/OlivetManagementLLC945519.pdf.
Renovation and cleanup activities can generate airborne concentrations of asbestos and lead. Workers can be exposed to both through inhalation or ingestion. Exposure to asbestos can cause disabling or fatal diseases, such as asbestosis, lung cancer, mesothelioma and gastrointestinal cancer. While lead exposure can cause damage to the nervous system, kidneys, blood forming organs, and reproductive system. Detailed information on asbestos and lead hazards and safeguards is available at http://www.osha.gov/SLTC/asbestos/index.html and http://www.osha.gov/SLTC/lead/index.html respectively.
Due to the willful violations found at the site, Olivet has been placed in OSHA's Severe Violator Enforcement Program, which mandates targeted follow-up inspections to ensure compliance with the law. Under the program, OSHA may inspect any of the employer's facilities or job sites.