A plumber in New England has been convicted of child endangerment after he exposed a teenage employee to asbestos during a construction project in 2008. According to prosecutors, the 43-year-old plumber violated numerous workplace safety and environmental regulations by ordering the teenager to dispose of two boilers that were insulated with asbestos. The teen worker was ordered to do so without appropriate steps to ensure his safety and protect him against asbestos exposure.
Asbestos is a known carcinogen that causes a variety of diseases, including mesothelioma. Nevertheless, the employer in this case had the teenage boy chipping away at asbestos-contaminated insulation. Prosecutors claimed that the young worker was not provided with protective clothing, a respirator or other protective equipment while carrying out the task.
According to the Massachusetts Attorney General’s office, where this case was litigated, this is the first instance of child endangerment being used in conjunction with an asbestos-related case. In addition to child endangerment, the man was also found guilty of three state clean air law violations: failing to notify the state’s environmental protection department of asbestos removal; improperly removing asbestos-contaminated substances; and improperly disposing of asbestos-contaminated substances.
Scientists, doctors and consumer advocacy groups agree that there is no safe level of asbestos exposure. For this reason, it is unlawful for an employer to negligently or purposefully expose employees to toxic substances on the job without following specific workplace safety laws pertaining to those toxic substances. In such cases, if employees who were unlawfully exposed to toxic substances develop injury or disease as a result of asbestos exposure, they could have strong claims for workers’ compensation and/or personal injury under the law.
Source: CBS Boston, “Worcester Plumber Convicted Of Child Endangerment In Illegal Asbestos Removal,” June 17, 2014.