Workers renovating a historical 1887 firehouse in Chicago were exposed toasbestos andelectrical hazards, according to an investigation by federal OSHA.

The inspection found Structure Development Midwest LLC failed to collect and dispose of asbestos-containing material in sealed, labeled and waterproof bags. The Chicago real estate and management company was issued one willful and seven serious citations carrying proposed penalties of $46,000 for the violations.

"Exposure to asbestos can cause loss of lung function and cancer, among other serious health effects, and workers must be trained in procedures that minimize exposure. Workers should never be put at risk because a company failed to protect them from a known, dangerous substance," said Kathy Webb, OSHA's area director in Calumet City.

The March 25, 2014, inspection found that the company failed to act and comply with existing regulations when employees were exposed to asbestos; did not ascertain whether asbestos work conducted was in compliance with standards; and failed to visibly identify and limit access to areas containing asbestos material.

A willful violation is one committed with intentional, knowing or voluntary disregard for the law's requirement, or with plain indifference to employee safety and health.

Serious electrical safety violations found at the site included lack of ground fault circuit interrupters, open electrical panels and failure to protect temporary wiring. These violations resulted in the issuance of seven serious citations. An OSHA violation is serious if death or serious physical harm could result from a hazard an employer knew or should have known exists.

Structure Development Midwest has 15 business days from receipt of its citations and penalties to comply, request an informal conference with OSHA's area director, or contest the findings before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.