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Prisoners used to clean up asbestos

Making the decision to put people in a position of being exposed to asbestos could be a life or death choice. Unfortunately, too many people make this decision lightly and without truly understanding that they may be putting people's lives in danger. They may think that because it takes so long for asbestos-related illnesses to develop, they will never have to take responsibility for their actions.

However, many victims of exposure are able to trace their exposure back to a negligent employer or landlord with the many resources that are available today. Additionally, improved reporting of such reckless behavior has resulted in a more public system of holding someone accountable for dangerous asbestos practices.

For example, the extremely questionable practices at a prison in another state were recently reported. Sources indicate that the state Department of Corrections has been using inmates as workers to remove materials in the prison that are contaminated with asbestos.

The inmates had reportedly received training in asbestos removal and were issued protective gear, but there were still many violations that were allowed to exist. According to reports, workers did not always wear their masks and gloves and they failed to properly wet down contaminated materials and vacuum them up. Despite knowing about all these issues with the process, supervisors tasked with monitoring the inmates' work failed to take any steps to fix the situation. It is argued that shortcuts were taken in the interest of speeding up the process to get new flooring installed.

The program of using inmates to remove asbestos has since shut down, but the agency cited for the numerous violations say that it was not shut down because of shoddy practices. Instead, they say that the risk of exposure was too great. Unfortunately, they acknowledged this risk only after workers completed 15 abatement jobs in one year, and after they were cited for substandard practices.

Parties that allow workers to be exposed to asbestos without providing them with proper training, warning and protective gear could be putting those victims at risk of developing a devastating and ultimately fatal illness. No one should have to suffer because of this type of negligence. People who have been exposed to asbestos should remember that every victim has the right to consult an attorney in order to understand what legal options may be available.

Source: The Bellingham Herald, "State ends asbestos cleanup by prisoners," Jordan Schrader, April 21, 2014

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