New England Contractor Fined for Asbestos Hazards, Respiratory Deficiencies

OSHA has proposed $136,000 in fines against construction contractor William A. Berry & Son Inc. for 19 alleged violations of workplace health and safety standards while removing asbestos-containing material at Beth Israel Hospital in Boston last September.

The agency's inspection found that employees of the Danvers, Mass.-based contractor were removing laboratory ventilation hoods with asbestos-containing panels without proper respiratory protection and required safeguards to minimize exposure. Specifically, the contractor failed to conduct an initial asbestos exposure assessment and monitor the worksite daily for asbestos exposure, establish regulated work areas, provide protective clothing and a decontamination area, use HEPA vacuums to collect debris and clean workers' clothing, label containers of asbestos-containing materials, train employees in asbestos work, and ensure that the site was inspected and the work overseen by a competent person. Several respirator-related deficiencies also were identified.

"Asbestos is well recognized as a health hazard since inhalation of asbestos fibers may lead to lung cancer and other diseases," said Brenda Gordon, OSHA's area director for Boston and southeastern Massachusetts. "OSHA standards are designed to minimize the risk of exposure and its potential impact on workers' health, but they are effective only so long as employers adhere to them."

As a result, OSHA has issued Berry & Son one willful citation, with a $55,000 fine, for not establishing a regulated work area and 17 serious citations, with $80,000 in fines, for the remaining items. The employer also has been issued one other-than-serious citation, with a $1,000 fine, for not providing OSHA injury and illness logs in a timely manner.

OSHA defines a willful violation as one committed with plain indifference to or intentional disregard for worker safety and health, while serious citations are issued when death or serious physical harm is likely to result from hazards about which the employer knew or should have known. Detailed information on asbestos hazards and safeguards is available at www.osha.gov/SLTC/asbestos/index.html and www.osha.gov/SLTC/asbestos/construction.html.

Berry & Son Inc. has 15 business days from receipt of its citations and proposed penalties to comply, participate in an informal conference with the OSHA area director, or contest the findings before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission. The inspection was conducted by OSHA's area office in Braintree, Mass.

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