Contractor faces $2 million fine for exposing workers to asbestos

This blog has frequently discussed the hazards posed by the renovation of older buildings in North Carolina and elsewhere that contain various types of asbestos-containing products. A recent administrative ruling by the United States Occupational Safety and Health Administration (“OSHA”) underscores the danger posed by the presence of asbestos-containing products in these older buildings.

Workers engaged in demolition or renovation products can be exposed to asbestos fibers when walls are removed or sand-blasted or when pipes, furnaces and boilers covered with asbestos insulation are cut or removed. If the fibers are inhaled, they can cause a number of diseases such as pleural mesothelioma, lung cancer and asbestos.

Kehrer Brothers Construction and an affiliate D7 Roofing, were hired to perform various jobs in connection with the renovation of a school building in Illinois. OSHA has levied fines totaling $1,792,000 against Kehrer, D7, and Joseph Kehrer, the president of Kehrer Bros., for knowingly exposing its workers to asbestos fibers and failing to provide adequate training and protective equipment. OSHA also charged that Kehrer hired foreign workers under a federal program that allows U.S. companies to temporarily hire foreign workers. Many of the persons that Kehrer hired spoke only Spanish, and Kehrer warned all of its employees that they would be fired if they spoke with OSHA investigators.

The violations cited by OSHA include failure to:

  • provide protective equipment, such as hard hats, goggles, and protective clothing
  • create a decontamination area where workers could remove their work clothing
  • use proper methods to minimize the release of asbestos fibers

Kehrer has not yet responded to the citation and its allegations.

This case once again demonstrates that asbestos is a serious health hazard that requires the use of extensive preventive measures to guard against the various diseases that can be caused by inhaling asbestos fibers. Anyone who believes that they may have been the victim of asbestos product exposure may wish to seek medical advice on the likelihood of contracting an asbestos-related disease and legal advice on the likelihood of recovering damages for any such exposure.

Source: EHS Today, “Companies, Manager Face $2 Million OSHA Fine for Exposing Workers to Asbestos,” Sandy Smith, Aug. 12, 2015