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Asbestos Violation is Not a Thing of the Past

Asbestos is a product that presently is mostly associated with the past – old mills and textile factories that employed thousands of laborers in the industrial heyday of the United States. Today, asbestos is a widely known carcinogen and precautions and laws have been in place since the 1970s to prohibit the use of asbestos. While violating asbestos laws have serious repercussions, asbestos violations are continually happening, which raises the question: should this carcinogen be taken more seriously and is the punishment for mishandling asbestos severe enough?

In an asbestos-abatement business in Michigan, workers’ health is in jeopardy because the Michigan Occupational Safety and Health Administration (MIOSHA) claim to not have enough inspectors for all their abatement projects. After an investigation, dozens of unlicensed contractors and untrained workers were found handling asbestos. However, penalties that were given out were found to be much lower so companies could focus on fixing the hazardous conditions faster and in some instances, it was found by the Detroit Free Press that penalties were not paid at all. As the investigation continued, it was also found that in two-thirds of asbestos –related violation cases over a seven-year period, there were zero penalties given. (Jennifer Dixon and Kristi Tanner, May 2016).

In Deerborn Heights, Michigan in 2012, a custodian was hired to help re-wax the floors of a local high school. Due to time constraints, the custodian was told to dry sand the floor rather than using water and scrubbing, which caused white dust to float over people, parked cars, and furniture in the school – clearly not equipped to handle such a pollutant. Once the worker filed a complaint, an investigation took place and ultimately the school administration was fined for each of the buildings containing asbestos. However, MIOSHA reduced the fine from $13,500 for each building that was contaminated to $1,800 once the school district hired an environmental company to do asbestos training.

In 2010, a renovation business was hired to do renovations of a former church to convert it into a school building. Rather than hire experienced professionals, the company hired homeless people to do the renovations. These untrained workers not only did not know they were being exposed to asbestos, but they were also not given the correct protective gear to handle the dangerous fiber. An investigation resulted in finding other contractors “preying on vulnerable people like immigrants, ex-cons, day laborers, homeless people and teenagers to take asbestos material out of buildings (Waterman, May 2016). While the owner of the company was found guilty, and faces up to five years in prison, he remains free on bond a year after his initial sentence – awaiting sentencing on a conspiracy conviction.

MLC Worcester LLC located in Massachusetts is yet another business fined for asbestos violations that occurred during renovations. The Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (MassDEP), upon inspection of the three-story apartment building, found asbestos-containing pipe insulation and piles of debris outside on the ground. Contractors, before any sort of renovation activity, are required by law to identify any asbestos, notify the DEP, and contact a professional to safely handle and remove the substance. MLC Worcester LLC, who was clearly in violation of this practice, did receive an initial $51,937.50 penalty, but if there are no further violations for one year, the company will only have to pay $10,000.

Asbestos and its violations should be a thing of the past – long after it was known to be a carcinogen, laws were implemented and the use of asbestos was greatly restricted. However, there seems to be some general leniency after initial court rulings. Asbestos is not gone from our lives forever. If it turns out that your home does contain asbestos, do not attempt to remove it yourself. Contact an asbestos removal service to take care of the problem. If you try to remove the offending substance, you could release fibers into the air and make your situation even worse.

If you believe you have unknowingly been in contact with asbestos and are now suffering a life-threatening illness, know your rights and contact one of our asbestos lawyers today for a free, no obligation consultation. Remember, asbestos exposure can also affect family members as they are at risk of bystander exposure. You and your family may be entitled to compensation. The lawyers at Goldberg, Persky & White, P.C., have pioneered the industry in asbestos lawsuits and can help you fight for what you deserve.

Jennifer Dixon & Kristi Tanner, “Deadly Asbestos: Workers Put In Jeopardy, But State Won’t Get Tough,” Detroit Free Press (May 2, 2016). [Link] Cole Waterman, “Bay City Academy Asbestos Charges Underline Larger Piece on Worker Abuse,” M Live (May 2, 2016) [Link] Jennifer Dixon, “Asbestos Contractors Target Homeless, Other Vulnerable People,” Detroit Free Press (May 1, 2016). [Link] Charlene Arsenault, “Worcester Three-Decker Owner Fined $52,000 for Asbestos Violations,” Worcester Patch (May 11, 2016). [Link]