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Contractor exposed to asbestos during construction project

People who work in construction are likely aware of the dangers of asbestos. The dangerous fiber was often used in everything from plumbing to insulation for decades. Many buildings still contain asbestos, and it is considered to be relatively harmless if it is undisturbed. However, construction and demolition projects often kick up this asbestos which is when it can be breathed in by workers. All too often, this exposure ends up causing serious and fatal health problems including mesothelioma.

This is why it is crucial for property owners to notify construction workers if there is asbestos present in a building. With appropriate warnings, workers can protect themselves from breathing in the dust. However, not all property owners take this responsibility seriously. For example, one man says that the owners of a prison in Canada failed to properly notify him of the presence of asbestos prior to a project that exposed him to the hazardous material.

According to reports, the man owned a construction business and was hired to replace 160 sinks and toilets that were in the prison. He had requested a report that would identify any hazardous materials he may be working with, including asbestos, but says that he was never provided one. He was well into the construction project when the man discovered that much of the plumbing hardware contained asbestos.

The man says that he and his workers had been breathing in airborne asbestos and carrying it home to their families on their work clothes without knowing it. His crew had come into direct contact with the asbestos for a week when they were removing gaskets on the toilets. Many of the gaskets were difficult to remove, so workers had scrape, grind and file many of them off. The realization that the gaskets were made out of asbestos came too late for them to properly protect themselves.

Before the construction job ever began, the man says he should have been notified that there was asbestos used in the plumbing. Reports indicate that the presence of asbestos in the building was well known, as corrections officers who worked in the building had voiced concerns for their own safety.

The true consequences of this negligence may not be realized for many years. It can take up to 40 years for a person to begin showing symptoms of the illnesses and cancers that are caused by asbestos.

Source: CBC News, "Contractor in fight with Public Works after asbestos exposure," Julie Ireton, April 25, 2013

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