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Agency cites firm for failing to disclose presence of asbestos

The United States Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has drafted regulations to protect workers from exposure to asbestos, and these regulations apply to every state. When OSHA levies a fine on a company in one state for violating these regulations, the action may also pose a warning for companies in North Carolina. Thus, the recent decision by OSHA to levy fines on a company in another state may have implications for employers in North Carolina.

The fines were levied because the company failed to inform it workers about the presence of asbestos-containing products in their workplace. OSHA characterized the violations as "serious," because the employer should have known that "death or serious harm" could result from the presence of asbestos.

There were several violations at issue in this case. One violation was the failure to post signs warning of presence of asbestos in confined spaces. Another violation was the failure to warn about presence of asbestos fibers in work areas. A third violation was the failure to provide adequate training that satisfied OSHA standards. Finally, a fourth violation was the failure to provide training on recognizing and avoiding asbestos.

The fines totaled $59,720. The company has the right to appeal the fines or seek a reduction by meeting with the area director of OSHA.

Many industries in North Carolina require employees to work in proximity to asbestos. As this case demonstrates, the failure to follow OSHA regulations may not only result in fines but also in the exposure of employees to the many health risks caused by asbestos. Those who have suffered from asbestos-related illnesses should not only seek the medical attention they need, but they may also want to consider the possibility of taking legal action against the manufacturers of the asbestos products.

Source: Chicago Tribune, "Feds: Franklin Park metal company didn't tell workers about asbestos," Mark Lawton, April 2, 2015

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