OSHA Fines Medical Center $110,000 for Asbestos Violations

OSHA has cited Niagara Falls Memorial Medical Center for alleged lack of employee safeguards and the improper removal and disposal of asbestos containing material in a closed section of the hospital during renovation work in December 2007. The Niagara Falls, N.Y., medical facility faces $110,000 in proposed fines.

The inspection was prompted by an employee complaint and found that hospital employees removed asbestos-containing surfacing material (ACM) from a steel ceiling beam without proper protective clothing, respirators, and training. In addition, the material was not properly disposed, the employees' work clothes were not properly decontaminated, the work area was not monitored for asbestos levels, and the employees were not informed about the asbestos-containing material.

"There was a breakdown of essential precautions before, during, and after this work, and the sizable fines proposed here reflect the gravity of the hazard," said Arthur Dube, OSHA's area director in Buffalo. "The medical center's failure to supply and ensure these basic and required safeguards placed these employees at risk of debilitating illness."

Specifically, the medical center was issued 17 serious citations, carrying $85,000 in proposed fines, for: not monitoring asbestos exposure levels during the work; not establishing a regulated area in which to remove the ACM; not using designated asbestos control methods; not providing employees with protective clothing, respirators, and training; dry sweeping and shoveling ACM; disposing of ACM in improper and unlabeled bags and depositing other waste and debris in a trash dumpster; improper and inadequate cleaning of contaminated uniforms, including allowing some employees to launder their contaminated uniforms at home; and not having the work overseen by a competent person.

In addition, one repeat citation, carrying a $25,000 fine, was issued for the medical center's failure to notify the employees of the presence, location, and amount of asbestos-containing or potentially asbestos-containing materials in the work area. OSHA had cited the hospital for a similar violation in April 2006.

Prolonged exposure to asbestos can lead to lung diseases, including lung cancer and mesothelioma. Detailed information on asbestos hazards and protective measures is available on OSHA's Web site at www.osha.gov/SLTC/asbestos/index.html. An asbestos fact sheet is available at www.osha.gov/OshDoc/data_AsbestosFacts/asbestos-factsheet.pdf.

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