New York's Koch Theater Fined for Asbestos, Fall, and Crushing Hazards

David H. Koch Theater reportedly failed to post asbestos warning signs in the promenade area, ensure clear exits, and guard employees from hazards associated with raising the stage.

Worker complaints prompted an OSHA inspection that found asbestos, fall, and crushing hazards at the David H. Koch Theater, located at the Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts in Manhattan. The agency cited the theater for alleged repeat and serious violations of workplace health and safety standards and proposed $51,000 in fines.

OSHA said employees and outside contractors had not been informed of the presence of asbestos-containing and potentially asbestos-containing materials in the theater's promenade area and in nearby electrical closets. The materials had not been labeled and asbestos warning signs had not been posted.

In addition, an exit door was stuck and unable to be used, and a portable fire extinguisher was not mounted. As these conditions were similar to those cited by OSHA during a 2009 inspection of the theater, they resulted in the agency issuing the theater four repeat citations with $45,000 in proposed fines.

The agency also found that, due to a lack of guarding, theater employees were exposed to falls into the orchestra pit when the stage was raised above the pit, and to being struck or crushed by the stage when it descended into the pit. These conditions, plus the use of temporary wiring in place of permanent lighting in the promenade area, resulted in OSHA also issuing the theater three serious citations with $6,000 in proposed fines.

"One means of eliminating hazards such as these is for employers to establish an illness and injury prevention program, in which workers and management jointly work to identify and eliminate hazardous conditions on a continual basis," said Robert Kulick, OSHA's regional administrator in New York.

The theater has 15 business days from receipt of the citations and proposed 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.

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