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3 plead guilty to asbestos violations on the job

People who are diagnosed with mesothelioma or asbestosis have been exposed to high or concentrated amounts of asbestos at some point in their lives. Many years ago, asbestos was used widely and an average worker was not aware of how dangerous it could be to come into contact with it. Now, many of these same workers are suffering from work-related illnesses because of the negligence of their employer. The symptoms of these diseases can decades to be identified, so tracking the source of exposure can sometimes present a challenge.

Employers who are negligent with the safety of their workers today may not realize the extent of their actions until 30 or 40 years from now when their workers are getting sick and dying from asbestos exposure. It is for this reason that employers who neglect their duty to keep workers safe these days, even before anyone presents symptoms of an illness, should be held criminally and civilly responsible for their willful and often harmful negligence.

For example, three men recently pleaded guilty to violations related to asbestos abatement. In an attempt to make more money, the three men hired students to remove asbestos-containing materials during a remodeling project. The biggest problem was that none of the workers were told that they were handling a toxic substance.

Workers were not instructed to wet down the asbestos prior to removal, so asbestos dust was kicked up and likely inhaled during the project. During the work, the young students were not given any type of protective clothing whatsoever. After they removed the asbestos-containing materials, the students were not instructed on how to properly and securely dispose of the asbestos. Each of these behaviors not only violated federal law, but it put each young worker at risk of develop an asbestos-related disease decades down the line.

The three men responsible for all this will be sentenced for their disregard of environmental law in the coming months, and it is likely that they will face jail time. This may be of little consolation to the young people who may have had their health forever jeopardized by their actions. Victims can choose to file a third-party negligence lawsuit, but that can take some time. In the meantime, workers' compensation benefits may be available to help workers with medical bills and lost wages.

Source: Central Valley Business Times, "Three admit exposing children to asbestos," March 11, 2013

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