Occupational Health & Safety

Maryland's Asbestos Worker Protection Law Hailed

LIUNA and the Laborers' Health and Safety Fund of North America say the new law significantly increases penalties for violating environmental laws related to asbestos remediation.

A contractor who violates environmental laws pertaining to asbestos remediation performed in Maryland could be fined $25,000 beginning Oct. 1, five times the maximum fine currently allowed by law, and leaders of the Laborers' Health and Safety Fund of North America and its parent union, LIUNA, say this change sets an important new standard for states to follow.

It creates an Asbestos Worker Protection Fund into which penalties and fines will be deposited, with the fund's proceeds to be spent on stronger enforcement and increased outreach, according to a report published in the LHSFNA June 2012 Lifelines enewsletter (www.lhsfna.org). According to the report, some unscrupulous contractors have taken shortcuts with abatement requirements in order to win jobs with lower bids.

"In an effort to undercut our signatory contractors who adhere to all federal asbestos abatements regulations – and in complete disregard for the health of their own employees – these businesses engaged in shoddy and illegal work practices," said LIUNA Vice President and Mid-Atlantic Regional Manager Dennis Martire. "With its steeper penalties, this new law levels the playing field and discourages this despicable behavior."

LHSFNA Director of Occupational Safety and Health Scott Schneider and several asbestos workers were among the people who testified and backed the measure when it was before the Maryland Legislature. "While it has been years since asbestos was used in construction, many older buildings still contain it. Asbestos continues to be a potential threat to anyone who has a job in demolition or remodeling," Schneider said in the Lifelines report. "My hope is that other states will follow Maryland's lead and pass their own asbestos worker protection laws."

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