Two Illinois-based construction companies have been issued nearly $1.8 million in fines from officials at the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) for reportedly exposing workers to asbestos hazards.
According to OSHA, the companies, Kehrer Brothers Construction and D7 Roofing, willfully exposing at least eight workers to asbestos hazards and threatened these workers with termination if they informed OSHA of these violations.
While D7 Roofing has been issued one serious and two willful OSHA violations, Kehrer Brothers Construction has received 16 egregious violations, 9 willful violations and 6 serious violations.
Given that Kehrer Brothers Construction has an extensive history of violating OSHA regulations and exposing workers to dangerous work conditions (it’s been inspected by OSHA 11 times over the past 8 years), it has been placed in OSHA’s Severe Violator Enforcement Program.
A Closer Look at the Violations, Asbestos Hazards
As OSHA has explained, Kehrer Brothers Construction intentionally exposed a group of workers to asbestos hazards during demolition work. Specifically, some of the ways that the company violated OSHA regulations and, in doing so, put workers at a significant and unnecessary risk of asbestos exposure included by:
- Failing to warn workers that they faced a risk of asbestos exposure even though the employer was fully aware of this risk
- Failing to train workers about asbestos risks and how to work around asbestos
- Failing to provide workers with essential personal protective equipment (PPE), including eyewear, respirators and protective clothing, to limit their exposure to asbestos hazards
- Failing to set up a decontamination area where workers could remove their PPE before leaving the site
- Failing to use necessary methods to minimize asbestos exposure and prevent toxic asbestos fibers from becoming airborne.
Among the violations committed by D7 Roofing included failing to inform workers about asbestos hazards and failing to train them on how to properly abate these hazards.
While intentionally exposing workers to asbestos hazards certainly makes this case egregious, so too does the fact that the employers seemed to have specifically targeted workers who may not have been aware of their rights to a safe workplace. In fact, the workers exposed to these asbestos hazards were all Spanish-speaking individuals work on temporary visas for these companies.
Commenting on this case, Dr. David Michaels, assistant secretary of labor for OSHA, has stated:
Kehrer Brothers Construction brought non-English speaking workers to the U.S. and knowingly exposed them to asbestos…Kehrer also threatened to fire his employees if they spoke with our investigators. This is outrageous, illegal behavior. We at OSHA will do everything in our power to ensure this employer stops endangering his employees.
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