$355,000 Fine Issued in Seattle Asbestos Case

L&I's investigation found a total of 12 willful workplace health violations for exposing workers to asbestos, failing to provide respiratory protection, leaving asbestos debris on site, and other safety and health issues.

The Washington State Department of Labor & Industries has fined a Seattle hotel owner $355,000 and cited the Seattle Pacific Hotel for a dozen willful violations, saying Jan. 22 that he knew his building contained asbestos but "decided to cut corners and save money by removing it using untrained workers."

The citation is for knowingly exposing workers to asbestos during the hotel lobby's remodeling. "It's unconscionable that anyone would knowingly expose untrained and unprotected workers to asbestos. It's an extremely hazardous material that's notorious for causing cancer and other serious health issues," said Anne Soiza, L&I's assistant director for the Division of Occupational Safety and Health.

L&I began its investigation last July and issued a stop-work order when it discovered asbestos removal was being done by workers who were not trained or certified to safely perform the work. "During the lobby renovation, an asbestos-abatement contractor had discovered that much of the ceiling was originally constructed with cement-asbestos-board," L&I reported. "The L&I investigation found that the hotel owner, Raj Nariya, had gotten an estimate from the certified asbestos-abatement contractor who discovered the issue, but didn't hire that firm. Instead, the owner had untrained employees of a roofing contractor do the work without letting them know the ceiling contained asbestos."

L&I's investigation found a total of 12 willful workplace health violations related to removal of the asbestos, with 10 of the violations carrying a penalty of $35,000 each, the maximum amount allowed for an employer of its size. The violations cited were for exposing workers to asbestos, failing to provide respiratory protection, leaving asbestos debris on site, and other safety and health issues. The hotel owner was also cited for an additional willful-general violation, with a $5,000 fine, for not taking a pre-removal air sample before removing the asbestos materials.

The employer has 15 business days to appeal the citation.

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