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February 4, 1999

Contractor fined for exposing workers to asbestos in Bellevue

TUMWATER - The Department of Labor & Industries has assessed a total of $42,000 in penalties against a California contractor for willfully violating safety and health regulations at a Bellevue renovation project where workers were exposed to health hazard posed by asbestos.

Forest City Enterprises of Los Angeles, CA, doing business as Colony Woods, was cited for a dozen violations of worker protection rules designed to safeguard workers from the hazard of asbestos exposure. The violations occurred during the last half of 1998 during renovation of the 396-unit Pacific Village Apartments in Bellevue. The work involved removal of ceilings and floors that contained asbestos materials.

Asbestos, a widely used mineral-based material that is resistant to heat and corrosives, represents a significant health hazard that has been linked to the loss of lung function, lung disease and several cancers that can lead to disability and death. Exposure to asbestos can cause three main diseases, asbestosis, lung cancer and cancer of the lining of the chest and abdominal cavities.

Willful violations indicate that the employer knowingly or intentionally violated worker-protection rules, or exhibited plain indifference that a violation was occurring and failed to take corrective action. The employer was cited a total of 12 violations - one willful, 10 serious and one general. Specifically, the employer:

  • Willfully failed to ensure that employees removing acoustical ceilings containing asbestos materials were certified to perform the work. ($18,000 penalty)
  • Failed to establish, mark and post the regulated area for asbestos-removal before the operations began. In addition, the employer failed to perform air monitoring prior to asbestos removal operations. ($2,400)
  • Failed to ensure that workers wore required respiratory protection and full-body protective clothing. ($2,400)
  • Failed to remove asbestos in a wet saturated state, and place drop cloths beneath all removal activity as required. ($2,400)
  • Failed to establish a negative-pressure enclosure as required during removal of the asbestos-containing ceiling material. In addition, the employer failed to establish a decontamination area with equipment, shower and clean room facilities. ($2,400)
  • Failed to demonstrate, by monitoring, that the airborne level of asbestos fibers was within permissible exposure concentrations or at the level which existed prior to the start of the project. ($2,400)
  • Failed to maintain surfaces as free as practicable from accumulations of asbestos-containing dust and waste. ($2,400)
  • Failed to inform all workers of the presence, location and quantity of known and presumed asbestos-containing materials. The employer also failed to post the asbestos survey information, and provide affected workers with asbestos awareness training as required. ($2,400)
  • Failed to meet record keeping requirements related to the presence, location and quantity of asbestos-containing and presumed asbestos-containing materials that remain on the site. For instance, in some cases, old asbestos-containing ceilings were overlaid with new sheet rock, concealing the asbestos and leaving it difficult to discover during future construction and renovation projects. ($2,400)
  • Failed to ensure that workers removing asbestos-containing materials were supervised by a competent person. ($2,400)
  • Failed to ensure that workers were protected from exposure to asbestos-containing materials. ($2,400)

In addition, a general violation was cited for failing to ensure that a table saw was properly guarded. No penalty was assessed.

The employer has 15 working days from the date of receipt to appeal the citation and penalties.

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